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Delhi plays that deal with historical personages: Walk down the history lane

Delhi recently saw productions on historical personages, Piyush Mishra’s biography of Bhagat Singh titled Gagan Damama Bajiyo and Tansen by the newly established Trialogue Company.

Published: 20th October 2019 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th October 2019 04:11 PM   |  A+A-

Tansen, musician extraordinaire, travels from his abandonment at birth by his Brahmin parents.

Tansen, musician extraordinaire, travels from his abandonment at birth by his Brahmin parents.

Despite the vast array of characters from Indian history we read and learn about in our growing-up years, few of them have been the subject matter of drama. One can almost count on the fingers of a single hand the plays that deal with historical personages: GP Deshpande’s play on Chanakya, and the three plays by Girish Karnad— Tughlaq, Rakt Kalyan and most recently, Crossing to Talikota on the end of the Vijaynagar empire.

Of course, in recent years there have been attempts to bring two historical movies to the stage—Mughal-e-Azam and Umrao Jan Ada. By virtue of their memorable melodies, both these ‘big’ movies have received equally ‘big’ productions on stage with elaborate settings, costumes, lighting, live music, dancing and special effects. The productions have travelled to several cities and Mughal-e-Azam is now in its third year of performance.

It was, therefore, refreshing that Delhi recently saw two productions on historical personages on two consecutive days. Piyush Mishra’s biography of Bhagat Singh titled Gagan Damama Bajiyo and Tansen by the newly established Trialogue Company. Piyush, of course, shot into fame in the late 80’s when he played both Woyzek and Hamlet while still enrolled at the National School of Drama. In the world of Bollywood, he has played an interesting array of characters,  including in Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha in 2015 and the delightfully inept cop in Happy Bhag Jayegi in 2016.

But one of his lifelong obsessions has been Bhagat Singh and Gagan Damama Bajiyo written by him was returned to Delhi after 25 years last month. The other historic play that stood out was on Tansen, who was one of the nine gems in Mughal emperor Akbar’s court. He came alive in a production of a high standard in all departments from script to acting to direction and design. It is interesting that of all the Mughals it is Akbar who has captivated Indian minds the most. Whether in the form of witty tales of Akbar and Birbal we read in school or his presence on screen in Jodha Akbar or in Mughal-e-Azam, his legacy truly stands out. 

The newly established Trialogue Company aims to create fresh content involving music, dance and drama. They want to take their productions across the world, showcasing the genius of Indian culture. Tansen, musician extraordinaire, travels from his abandonment at birth by his Brahmin parents, his growing up in a Sufi shrine, his encounter with Tani, who is in many ways his muse, and his journey to Akbar’s court. It explores the dilemmas of being an artist and examines the factors that make an artist feel liberated and also what makes him feel caught in his own emotions, expectations and pride.

The play is episodic in structure, drawing on many of the anecdotes and images from KL Saigal’s film and also incidents from Girish Chaturvedi’s novel. Performed in an adapted style of Dastangoi, the show’s three performers—Mohammad Faheem, Ridhima Bagga and Sudheer Rikhari—were supported by live music and arresting stage images, thanks to the lighting of Rahul Chauhan.

Sudheer Rikhari as Tansen captured all the ecstasy and angst of an artist and sang beautifully. The other two actors were also masters of their craft. The outstanding production received a much-warranted standing ovation from the audience. The writer is a Delhi-based theatre director and can be reached atfeisal.alkazi@rediffmail.com
 



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