Vande Mataram – Play Review


Flag adopted by the Indian National Congress i...

Flag adopted by the Indian National Congress in 1931. First hoisted on 1931-10-31 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Let me take you back to the year, 1942”, thus begins the play, taking the audience back to August 8, 1942, the day when Gandhi launched the “Quit India” movement, against the British.  Based on real events, the story of Keezhariyur Bomb Case in Malabar, Kerala is adapted for stage by brilliant playwright and director, Sujit Saraf and produced by Gopi Rangan.

 

India, in 1942, was a diverse nation, divided by languages, dialects, caste, class, religion, and loyalties, and divided by the lack of infrastructure, in the analog age.  India’s struggle to rid itself of the colonialism has to be as complex and multifaceted, as its people.  It is even a marvel that Gandhiji managed to unite the nation and helped achieve India’s independence, spearheading the struggle under the banner of non-violence.  But there were various rebel groups and leaders, with their own brand of nationalism, their own value system, their own worldview, and their own interest in future independence of India, that resulted in multitude of little struggles.  Some of these ended in small scale violence, only to ignite a sizeable imperialistic response, some puttered and fizzled out, some joined forces with others, and eventually most gave their support to Gadhi’s non-violent struggle for independence.

 

The characters of this play, tell the story of one group of Indian rebels, in the 1940s, in the backward state of Bihar (at the time), and the superb cast makes them truly memorable.  Led by a Colorado trained professor, brilliantly played by Salil Singh, a small group of rebels discuss the plan to shake up the Brits, with some strategic bomb blasts.  Sujit Saraf, in the role of a renegade Congressman, is equally superb, as he straddles the issue between allegiance to Gandhi’s perspectives and participation in the Professor’s activist stance.  Mukund Marathe and Amol Deshmane, in the role of two brothers at odds with each other, coming together to finance the rebel project, are also fantastic.  Their participation in the project, heals their earlier wounds and they are both in agreement that that their businesses not suffer any harm on account of their participation in this project.  Surender Singh, also fantastic, in the role of the restaurantor, provides the space for the project.  Soumya Chakravorty, plays the role of Banwari, recruited to build and detonate the bombs.  Banwari refuses to work alongside Muslims, he is in equal measure prejudiced, fanatic, stupid, and a victim of his circumstances, who looses his land to land owners but feels compelled to do something, against injustice.  Chakravorty is absolutely brilliant in this role.

 

This group of individuals could not be more different, in terms of their interests and affiliations, their cynicism, idealism, and ambition, and are coming together and uniting in one cause, independence of the nation.  Will this group, so flimsily connected, stay true to the cause and hold together or will it fall apart by betrayal, stupidity, or other self-interests?  Irrespective of whether they will succeed or fail, this is a fantastic play about human endeavors to be free, at the very basic level.  It is a play that brings out the complexity inherent in the task of nation building.  Saraf moved the story to Bihar (from the real life incident, that took place in Kerala), so that it can be produced in Hindi.  Eventual language is a beautiful mix of Hindi, Bhojpuri, and Marwari.  Excellent set design is by Siva Kollipara.  Vineeta Singh and crew have done great job in set building.  Sowmya Ballakur has provided supertitles, so the play can be enjoyed by non-Hindi speaking audience members as well.   And once again, I will say the entire cast is brilliant and the acting is flawless.

 

Vande Mataram is playing to sold out audiences.  Book your tickets early.  For registration, go to www.naatak.com .

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