May 18, 2008


On 22nd evening we went to Purana Quila to watch 1857: EK SAFARNAMA.
The NSD guys were really helpful…they were doling out ODOMOS at the entrance!!!!!
The play was around 2 hours long. Following are a few personal observations and comments about the play.

  • A lot has been said [both unwarranted and the opposite] about Bhanu Athaiya doing the costumes. I’m not joining the debate, but just putting forth my views [eh!].
The fabrics used for each of the characters costumes were absolutely apt, especially the rich silk used for the Indian rulers’ and courtiers’ costumes.
The detailing was very carefully done. Eg. In the Indian darbars…the end of every courtier’s dupatta [or uttariya, or whatever the traditional name is!] was different.
Shrimant Nanasaheb Peshwa’s costume was my favorite because of its gherao, fitting and the churidar effect on the sleeves.

  • The play is a musical, true to the Indian tradition of having a song for every moment. No, the actors are not singing every time! But the act is interspersed with a few well-meaning songs that capture the simmering mood very well, and also help spreading the feeling of nationalism.

  • The scene depicting a show of puppets [kathputlis] accompanied by lyrics meant to arouse a rebellion against the oppressive rulers [British] was played out really well. This is in keeping with the heartland’s entertaining way of conveying a strong message-to people who are basically illiterate- through fun and double entendre lyrics that underlie the need to fight for justice and freedom. Another example of this would be the playing out of Ramlila. Over centuries, this medium has been effectively used to reach out to large audiences and vehemently [but tactfully] convey messages that would otherwise be considered as treason!
The guy who played Tantia Tope… I think… he’s actually a Maharashtrian! Well…his style of speaking [to be carefully observed beyond the delivery of dialogues] gave off a hint of the marathi accent in it!A slight error in delivery happened when one of the female actors in a pre-climax scene said, “…patthar ki lakir hota hai.” Alas…seems like she’d practiced it wrong… or probably it was just nervousness!

The most touching scene was when Bahadur Shah Zafar [after being told that he has been sentenced to Rangoon] woefully rues… “humein apne purkhon ke pyaare zameen mein dafnaane ka mauka nahin milega.” Allah!

Lastly… the ‘first war of independence’ reared its head a full 150 years after the Battle of Plassey. The feeling of inadequacy in terms of communication and organization was a bit palpable through the depictions in this production.
It is startling to know that despite so much of spirit and gusto…the Brits actually managed to still reign on us [and consequently plunder our treasure trove of resources] for a pretty long time. huh!

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