(Last Updated on : 19/03/2012)
Kaikhushro Navroji Kabraji was a far-sighted Parsi actor, dramatist, director, musician, scholar, reformer, journalist, and skilled organizer whose work in Mumbai
is considered a landmark in the history of Gujarati theatre
. He was born in 1842 in a poor family. As the eldest son he worked very hard, managing the newspapers, viz. Rast Goftar, and Stribodh for women readers from the age of 14. His younger brother was the dramatist -Bamanji Kabra. He was the key man of Victoria Theatrical Company (1868) and Natak Uttejak Mandali (1875). Kabraji started the tradition of efficient managers in Parsi theatre
, paying his actors, directors, and musicians. As a systematic professional, he formed a committee for selection and performance of plays. He framed definite rules for the theatre, advanced for the age. As a director ahead of his time, he showed the acting of each character in detail. As a plain-dealing theatre person, he earned high regard. He built a hall for the Natak Uttejak Mandali. For a long period, the Gujarati stage followed the track traced by him.
Kaikhushro Navroji Kabraji was the writer-director of the first printed Gujarati play, Bejan-Manijeh i.e. 'Bejan and Manijeh'. This was based on a romantic story from Firdausi's Persian Shabnama. He earned fame among Parsis for presenting their Iranian heritage theatrically. He concluded its performance by Victoria Company at Grant Road Theatre
in 1869 with a farce titled Parent Kuvarno paremno piyalo i.e. "Parem Kuvar's Cup of Love" or Navai jevojanvar i.e. 'Wondrous Animal'. He next produced the tragic Jamshed in 1870, also dramatized from the Shaimama. The popular plays he directed for Natak Uttejak Mandali were Dave's Harishchandra in 1876, which ran for 100 nights, and Nal-Damayanti i.e. "Nala and Damayanti" in 1877. This play attracted large numbers of women spectators; he arranged a crŠche for their children while they watched. Mahatma Gandhi
wrote of seeing Harishchandra
in 1881 and becoming a strong lover of truth. Thus Kabraji influenced Hindu reformism too. His own Ninda khanun i.e. "Scandal House" in 1883 based on Sheridan's School for Scandal turned into the Mandali's last big hit. He also adapted British plays by Dion Boucicault and Susannah Centlivre.