THEATRE director extraordinaire Krishen Jit, who died in 2005 aged 66, was an icon in the Malaysian theatre scene. Three years ago, on the 10th anniversary of his death, Five Arts Centre – the theatre company he co-founded in 1984 with dancer-choreographer Marion D’Cruz, who was also his wife, and theatre director Chin San Sooi – organised an experimental theatre conference, Unfinished Business, that explored Krishen’s life and theatre. From the essays and critical reflections that came out of the conference, Five Arts Centre released a compilation entitled Excavations, Interrogations, Krishen Jit & Contemporary Malaysian Theatre, featuring the works of 14 writers from different disciplines and backgrounds. Co-published with independent Singapore publishing company Epigram Books, the 190-page volume is edited by Charlene Rajendran, Carmen Nge, and Ken Takiguchi. The editors hope that the book will help readers find their own connections to Krishen and the Malaysian contemporary theatre scene. Charlene, a member of the Five Arts Centre, explains that Krishen was never stagnant, and never stopped reinventing himself, from the moment he was involved in theatre in the 1960s to his death in 2005. “He was always adapting to the changes within Malaysia, whether politically, socially or historically,” says Charlene, a theatre educator, researcher and practitioner who is currently an assistant professor in Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. “As a result, his works are always changing and always remain relevant.” She also found that he loved to experiment and was never afraid to try innovative ideas. “Not all his plays work, but he listened deeply, and he read deeply.” Krishen also played an important role in her journey to understanding Malaysian theatre. She acted in two plays, The Sandpit and The Cord, under his direction. He was also her mentor when she directed her first play, My Grandmother’s Chicken Curry. Charlene was one of the key players who helped organise the Unfinished Business conference where Krishen’s works were analysed and dissected. Many key players from the Malaysian theatre scene, including a few names from overseas, shared their opinions on him and his works. She and several theatre personalities were keen to see the conference being documented, and a book was the best medium. After three years, the project was finally realised. Books of this nature usually have a serious tone. But the team went the opposite route in terms of the cover and the layout. Designed by Zarina Othman, the book has a playful nature and is filled with many pictures. It will certainly appeal to the younger generation. “We wanted a book that is attractive, sexy and fun,” says Charlene. “After all, that is what theatre is all about.” She hopes the pictures and the funky layout will attract youngsters to read the text. “We want to create a relationship between images and text.” The late Krishen’s wife, Marion, is reportedly extremely happy with the book, in which she has contributed a piece co-written with another theatre practitioner, Janet Pillai. Marion has said she hopes the book will spark new interest in Krishen, and introduce him to members of the younger generation who are still clueless about him. The book has many interesting anecdotes. One of my personal favourites is a story told by Krishen himself, where he recalled how the late literary genius Usman Awang was interested in getting non-Malays involved in Malay theatre. Usman hired Krishen to play Hang Tuah in a play based on a script that he wrote. Unfortunately, Krishen’s Malay was bad, and Usman had to tutor him. One day Krishen turned up for rehearsal and saw a young actor, who then introduced himself and mentioned that he (the young actor) was going to be playing Hang Tuah! Krishen said: “I had been sacked without my knowledge because my Malay was so bad.” He then went up to the play’s director and told him that if he wanted to sack an actor, he had better inform the individual first before hiring his substitute. Krishen revealed that the young actor in question was current industry veteran Ahmad Yatim, who went on to make a name for himself on stage and screen. However, he bore no ill will towards Ahmad, even praising his performance in the play. If you want to know more about Krishen’s life and career, Excavations, Interrogations, Krishen Jit & Contemporary Malaysian Theatre is available in major bookstores at RM90.