(Last Updated on : 22-07-2009)
Cowasji Palanji Khatao was a lead singer-actor, director, and owner of the Parsi theatre company which first introduced a European lady as an actress in Urdu and Gujarati theatre
. He was orn in Bombay in a poor family. He started acting in 1875, caught the notice of Jehangir Khambata, and in 1877 joined Empress Victoria Theatrical Company, where he learnt how to act from Khambata. An English actress, Mary Fenton was the daughter of an officer in the British Indian army. She fell in love with Khatao's acting and with him. After he revived the Alfred Theatrical Company
with others in 1881, he trained her in Nanabhai Ranina's Nazan Shirin in 1881, Bamanji Kabra's Bholigul i.e. 'Innocent Flower' in 1882. This was based on Mrs Henry Wood's English novel East Lynne, Amanat's Urdu classic bidarsabha, and Kalidasa's Sanskrit classic Sakuntala. She excelled in the roles of Parsi heroines in light social comedies and was universally admired.
Khatao had famous stars like Sohrabji Oghra, Amrit Keshav Nayak, and Vallabh Keshav Nayak perform Shakespeare's plays for the Alfred. Ahsan's Khun-e-nahaq i.e. 'Unjustified Murder' in 1898 was based on Hamlet. This was Khatao's greatest success. He relished tragic parts, and his Hamlet made viewers refer to him as 'Henry Irving'. As a producer and director, however, he monotonously emphasized the same stagecraft. Honoured for his services to Gujarati and Urdu theatre in 1908, he died on a tour in Lahore in 1916.
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