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THEATRE REVIEW: MAHATMA

A play of agonizing hope

07 Oct 2017, 21:24 | updated: 08 Oct 2017, 15:44

Romeo Anjelo
Photo: Alex Romario

Observing the International Day of Non-Violence on the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi who led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world through non-violent, Universal Theatre staged their 38th production named Mahatma, at Experimental Hall in Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA) on October 3, 2017. The play was written and directed by Mazharul Haque Pintu.

General Secretary of Bangladesh Group Theatre Federation -- Akhtaruzzaman, Chairman of ‘Shammilito Shanskritik Jote’ -- Golam Kuddus, Educational Advisor of UNICEF Bangladesh and Advisor to Universal Theatre -- Pulak Shaha and Theater director and actor -- Mazharul Haque Pintu, before the drama set sail, talked about communal peace which is almost absent in many parts of the world; and they idolized Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent ideology. 

The drama focused on the communal riot, which had begun in Noakhali in 1946. To destroy communal harmony of the Indian Subcontinent, the British conspired to “divide and rule”, to be specific to wage a conflict between Hindu and Muslim. In that riot, opportunists and religious extremists burned village after village, and massive loot, killing, kidnapping and persecution of women took place.

Golam Sarwar Hussaini, who represents the ideology of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, is an MLA and Khadim of the Diara Sharif and his hired hooligans led the riot. On the other hand, Khelaram Pandey represents the ideology of Jawaharlal Nehru, also got entrapped in the politics of the British envoy Mr Prince who represents the utilitarian British regency in India who abused the wealth of the people of India, for centuries. They prefer to give India independence but, with turmoil and turbulence. 

Mahatma Gandhi was concerned of the condition of the ordinary people when the news reached to him. Therefore, he set out for Noakhali ignoring his sickness.

Mr Prince arrives in Noakhali after Mahatma Gandhi. Adding pain to the injury, he also brought the Hindu Mahasabha politician, Shree Khelaram Pandey. In the midst of the conspiracies, Gandhi tried to ease the sorrow. He kept his head high with hopes that with non-violence he could solve the problems.

A sudden fire was set out, villages were ransacked, looted and people were massacred. The ground was smeared with blood. Seeing this Gandhi re-told all, ‘Violence cannot bring peace’.

Meanwhile, in Delhi another incident shocked India. The Partition was drafted and signed over. This was also allegorically enacted in the play. Golam Sarwar came to congratulate Mr Prince about the accomplishment of mission and left with utmost assurance of reward from the Regency.

The play ended by the optimistic proposal of Gandhi followed by his famous anthem: “raghupati raghav raja ram, patit pavan sitaram”. 

The script of the drama was not that intense, to be true. The scenes were loosely connected at few points, but the acting of the artistes pulled off the drama quite well. Stage lighting were well-designed by Shamimur Rahman and Abdul Ela, but it could have been more magical at some points of intensity in the plot. However, the art direction by Abul Hossain Khokon was simply artistic and relevant. Live background music added an extra beauty to the production, performed by Riyad, Pintu, Rayhan, Saif, Shopon, and Ranjit Das. 

The character roles were played by Abul Kalam Ajad (Mahatma Gandhi), Showkot Ali Monsur Riyad (Adward Princ), Majharul Haque Pintu (Khelaram Pandey), Abdur Rajjak Onjon (Golam Sarowar), and many more.

**The writer is schooling with Notre Dame University Bangladesh

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