Turban Legend- Shivaji underground in Bhimnagar- Shanta Gokhale #Sunday Reading


Turban legend

SEPARATING THE BEST FROM THE BANAL ON MUMBAI’S CULTURESCAPE

Mumbai Mirror

The play is in Marathi, the title is in English. Marathi theatre loves this combo. But the title is not your innocuous All the Best or Lovebirds. It is
Shivaji Underground in Bhimnagar Mohalla. Sounds potentially explosive. In times when we dare not touch Shivaji, not in plays, novels, short stories, reminiscences or history, particularly not in history, this play puts him upfront in the title itself. I look over my shoulder to see who else has noticed and is rolling up his sleeves for action.
Anyway, why is Shivaji underground? Isn’t he always on a magnificent Arab steed, raised sword in hand? Or sitting majestically on an opulent throne? More than why, where has he gone underground? In Bhimnagar of all places? What’s he doing hobnobbing with Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar’s followers?
The whole thing is a mystery. But if the title isn’t intriguing enough to take you to the nearest theatre where the play is showing, the three names attached to it should do the trick. The first is Shahir Sambhaji Bhagat’s. He is the radical balladeer whose rousing call to the exploited of this country to wake up and recognise the faces of their enemies, ‘Inko dhyaan se dekho re bhai/ Inki soorat ko pehchano re bhai,’ has become an all-time hit. The concept of the present play, its music and its songs are his. The second name is Nandu Madhav’s. He’s the actor who gave flesh, blood, passion and madness to the character of Dadasaheb Phalke in Paresh Mokashi’s multi-award winning film, Harishchandrachi Factory. He directs this play. The third name is Rajkumar Tangde’s. We first heard of him when Nandu Madhav brought him and his group of farmer actors down from Jalna to perform their play Aakda in Mumbai. It was about stealing power, and was staged in near-darkness to give the audience an immediate taste of what life in the actors’ villages was like without power. Tangde wrote that play, and has written this.
So there I am in Shivaji Mandir, a-tingle with expectation without quite knowing what to expect. This much I know. With these three names attached to it, the play cannot be a wishy-washy regurgitation of a formula. It has to be something new and energising. And it is.
The curtain goes up on a large ensemble of actors placed geometrically on different levels, dressed in costumes suggesting the era of Shivaji. Two performers of gondhal (a ritual performance that marks celebrations) begin singing a traditional mythological tale. A woman interrupts them saying, we are fed up with mythology. Come into the present and sing about today.
This introduction gives us an idea of which way the play is headed. Through song, humour and discussion, it pits mythology against history with a hilarious running gag that often brings the house down. Yama (Pravin Dalimbkar) has being sent to earth to fetch Shivaji up, along with his ideas. Shivaji forgets his ideas and returns to earth to get them. He leaves his turban behind as surety, but doesn’t return. Yama (now Yamaji) runs around looking for a head on which the turban will fit. The turban thus becomes a symbol of Shivaji’s ideas; and the political party headed by the opportunistic Akka (Ashwini Bhalekar), which is all set to celebrate Shiv Jayanti, proves that it is the least likely candidate for the turban.
The central idea of the play is that Shivaji has been mythologised by the very people whose ancestors had opposed his coronation because he wasn’t a Kshatriya, but who now claim him as their idol for political mileage. The argument culminates in a brilliant jugalbandi between Dharma Shahir (Sambhaji Tangde), a minion of the myth-makers and Milind Kamble (Kailas Waghmare), who sees Shivaji’s greatness not only in his wars but in his policies regarding women, caste, religion, agriculture and revenue which made him such a just and compassionate king.
Unlike the typical urban middleclass play that confines itself to drawing rooms and kitchens, folk forms offer theatre the freedom to address the big issues of the day. This play comes close in form to the old Ambedkari jalsas, mixing music, humour, even slapstick, with pure didacticism.
Nandu Madhav rehearsed the cast for 100 days, mostly in the fields of Jalna. His hard work shows in the easy precision with which the actors speak and move. Finally, you are so grateful to see Shivaji taken away from myth-making chauvinists and given his true greatness by those who know and respect history.

SHANTA GOKHALE

Benegal pulls out of jury on Vedanta-promoted film competition


English: Photograph of Shyam Benegal in his of...

Image via Wikipedia

PTI New Delhi: Renowned filmmaker Shyam Benegal has pulled out of a jury panel that was to judge a creative film competition organised by mining group Vedanta, as part of its media campaign, apparently aimed at improving its image. Benegal confirmed his resignation from the jury of the ‘Creating Happiness Film Competition’ but refused to give reasons. “Yes, I have pulled out (of the jury),” he told PTI. “I rather will not comment on this (reasons for the pullout).”

The Dadasaheb Phalke awardee’s association with a group with alleged poor trackrecord had been criticised on social networking sites. Vedanta Group spokesperson did not reply to requests made for comments on the development. Billionaire Anil Agarwal-led Vendanta Resources had invited students from across the country to make shortfilms showcasing its initiatives to sustainable development towards the society through a platform, ‘Creating Happiness Film Competition’. The films were to be judged in two categories – popular choice and jury award. Advertising Personality Piyush Pandey and actress Gul Panang were the other members of the jury.

Pandey, too, has been criticised for his involvement but he continues to be on the jury. Unconfirmed reports said Panang, too, may have pulled out of the jury. No independent confirmation of her move could, however, be ascertained. Panang could not be reached for comments

. However, sources close to the development said Vedanta’s alleged tarnished image, particularly after the Niyamgiri Hills issue in Orissa, may have prompted Benegal to pull out of the panel. The metal and mining major has also in the past received severe criticism from social activists for damaging the tribal habitats and environment at Niyamgiri Hills in Orissa. A land grabbing charge was also labelled against it. Vedanta Resources, having interests in non-ferrous metals and iron ore, had earlier invited film students across the country to find their own ‘Binno’ from 550 villages where the company has presence and make films that will tell ‘real stories’.

As many as 38 films have been made by 114 students from 21 colleges. Vedanta had uploaded all films on its official YouTube channel. The three-month voting period for judging the best under the popular choice category will end on March 20.

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