BENGALURU: A chance stumble upon an online article on the landmark debate about the collapse of stars, ultimately forming black holes, that took place between Indian-American astrophysicist and Nobel laureate, Subramanyan Chandrasekhar, and his mentor, Sir Arthur Eddington, got Nilanjan P Choudhury thinking about the possibility of turning it into a play. The theatre practitioner has explored the convergence of science and theatre in his play, The Square Root of a Sonnet - The Strange History of Black Holes.
In 1930, as a 19-year-old boy, Chandrasekhar formulated the fundamental equations that govern the ultimate fate of the stars in our universe. To his surprise, they indicated that certain stars were destined to collapse into nothingness and become those mysterious objects that we now call black holes. But his extraordinary discovery of collapsing stars was suppressed as soon as it was made. And the person responsible for this was his own mentor - Sir Arthur Eddington, professor of astronomy at Cambridge University and the foremost astrophysicist of the age.
“I was fascinated by the complex guru-shishya relationship between Chandra and Eddington. Within it lies a tale of ambition, friendship and betrayal set against the backdrop of the epoch-making events of the 20th century – the two great World Wars, the Indian freedom struggle and the birth of the strange new sciences of relativity and quantum mechanics. The historical context and personalities involved in this tale came together in an organic manner during the writing of the play,” he says about the play directed by Prakash Belawadi.
After a year of research, including reading 300 pages of Chandra’s interviews, books, and articles, which was followed by a six-month writing process, Choudhury had it vetted by a few scientists for scientific and historical accuracy. He wanted to convey the “sheer beauty of the science that lay at the heart of the Chandra-Eddington debate.”
The play has also been translated into Kannada by Shashidhara Dongre, and has been performed by Arun Murthy and his team. The play will be staged on Nov 23 at Ranga Shankara.