MahadevBhai

Went to see Mahadevbhai, performed by Working Title productions Mumbai at Chowdiah today as a part of Bengalooru Habba. Mahadevbhai is the story of the freedom struggle told through the eyes of Gandhi’s aide Mahadevbhai Desai. A solo performance by Jaimini Pathak (who had directed a play I saw sometime back “Thukra’s Dream”) who is shown as a budding actor, with a link to Mahadevbhai through his granduncle, and who discovers him and Gandhi through conversations with his grandfather.

The play was quite educative since it refreshed quite a few history lessons I had forgotten — the Champaran and Bardoli satyagraha, the Dandi march and the agitation against the Rowlatt Act (on the same lines as MISA and POTA). However, more than the history lesson, it was the human character it gave to the leaders of our freedom struggle is what I liked. Gandhi is not a chapter in History, but a living person delivering speeches, writing letters and fasting unto death for Hindu Muslim unity. Similarly for Mahadevbhai, a scholar in his own right, who is dedicated to Gandhiji as Hanuman was to Ram, his personal aide and secretary, who maintained one of the most detailed accounts of the freedom struggle in his 27-volume personal diary (I would like to read that sometime!).

It also brings to light what Gandhiji stood for — equality for everybody including one self (being able to stand up against the British and not write in servile language), his Dandi March which was not just an agitation against the government, but the act of the march gave it a life of its own, his fast unto death against untouchability which is perhaps the reason why the curse has reduced so much in our society. It also brings out subtle sarcasm in Godhra being the venue where Gandhi and Jinnah jointly addressed Hindus and Muslims together for the first time, and the attitude of the M.B.A. (Mujhe Bahut Aata hai) elder brother, and the British-obsessed history teacher Ms. Priscilla.

Jaimini Pathak carried off the performance really well. Keeping the audience engaged for 2 hours alone is no mean feat, and Jaimini Pathak and director Ramu Ramanathan are very well deserving of all the praise (it was the 111th performance!). By interspersing Mahadevbhai’s life story with his own, and the conversations with his grandfather and his history teacher ensure that the play gets a graph, and the audience some entertainment. A very good performance, which you must visit if the play comes to your city.

Tomorrow is Art by Evam Productions from Chennai, and I was chatting with Sunil, one of the actors and co-founder of Evam, and he mentioned that they are going to use 30 carton boxes as props. Hmmmm, I need to check that out!

More coverage (from the past): The Hindu IndianExpress

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