The audience at Kirti Mandap in Gandhi Smriti—Mahatma Gandhi spent the last 144 days of his life here—broke into applause as Aayush Kukreja, who portrayed the character of Gandhi, proclaimed on stage, “Yeh mere sapno ka swaraj nahi (this is not the swaraj I envisioned)”.
The play titled Gandhi Tum Zinda Ho, directed by Raj Upadhyay, was staged at the venue on Sunday evening, December 5, 2021. Bringing to light Gandhian ideals, this play follows the story of Rajeshwar Pandey (played by Pranay Bhageria) and his wife Sumitra (played by Saumya Gupta) who are directed by Gandhi to adopt a Muslim child named Aftaab (played by Sagar Gambhir). It thus brings to light the importance and relevance of his philosophy in contemporary times.
“Humans have become destroyers of peace. Religious rigidity, terrorism, caste inequalities are dominant issues. Gandhi was perhaps the only spiritual and political leader who was able to mobilise us. Even though years have passed, there has been no one who has reached up to his level,” shared Upadhyay who founded the Thespian Society, a Delhi-based theatre company in 2005.
A display of gandhian ideals
In times when religion controls every aspect of our lives, Gandhi Tum Zinda Ho has socially salient cues for all. Even though the plot is located in a post-partition era, the play bears resemblance to events from the recent past, thereby showcasing a tale that is as timeless as Gandhi’s ideals. Upadhyay thus does an intelligent job of juxtaposing contemporary issues in a plot that is set in the past.
Right from the start, the dramatic storytelling deploys rather exaggerated performances, a grandiose sound design, and the elaborate use of lights and costumes; all important to contextualise the time period the play is set in. Largely a piece of fiction, the characters almost broke the fourth wall in a pursuit to communicate that the themes being talked about are independent of a certain period of time.
Even though the structure of the play spoon-fed the audience much detail and nuance, leaving little space for personal interpretations, they resonated well with the performances. The play’s juxtaposition of entertainment with information appealed to the spectators looking to revisit their understanding of Gandhian ideals. Strong performances from the actors further elevated the show, keeping the viewers gripped for a tale as long as an hour-and-a-half.
Talking about the process of working on the play, Sagar Gambhir shared, “The process was extremely easy considering the situation within which the play was created. I had nothing to do but only follow the script and the direction of my director. Also, considering the area we are in [Gandhi Smriti], so close to history, it was very easy to slip into his [Gandhi’s] ideals.”
The play, though emotionally charged, is stagey and largely foreseeable. Nonetheless, the play is an attempt in the right direction that brings to highlight the ultimate message- Gandhi could save us in 1947, Gandhi can save us in 2021.