Chandigarh : True to the credo of,”Nothing succeeds like success”, the students of The Lawrence School, Sanawar once again articulated their histrionic skill when the Tagore Theatre of Chandigarh became alive with “REMEMBER THE LEGENDS”, the saga of Bhagat Singh on 26th January, 2012. There couldn’t have been a more befitting occasion than this when the entire nation was engulfed in a chauvinistic fervour and regalement. Hon’ble Mr Justice Rajive Bhalla (OS-1970-Nilagiri House), permanent judge of Punjab & Haryana High Court was the chief guest at the occasion.
The play was a tribute to the dauntless and redoubtable son of India whose inimitable zeal for freedom has etched an indelible mark on the annals of India’s freedom struggle. On March 23, 1931, Bhagat Singh was hanged in Lahore with his fellow comrades Rajguru and Sukhdev. The resounding success of the play is evident from the standing ovation that it received from the audience during its staging at Delhi’s NCUI Auditorium on 21st and 22nd of January, 2012. The three shows in Delhi were presided by Anshu Vaish (IAS) Secretary (School Education) Govt. of India, Pankaj C Munjal (Chairman, Hero Group) and General VK Singh (Chief of the Army Staff), besides other attendees including various distinguished guests and students of sixteen prominent schools of Delhi and NCR.
Designed and directed by Siddharth Shasta, who teaches Drama at Sanawar, the play is nothing short of a magnum opus presented in a modern expressionistic style. Shasta has picked up the strands of the history of India’s freedom struggle and has tried to portray a true reflection of Bhagat Singh’s ideology that emanated from his aspirations and convictions, and were the driving force behind his making of a revolutionary. He has made a sincere attempt to manifest the true image coupled with the underlying vision of Shaheed-e-Azam, which to most of us is the essence of freedom from the British rule. But, only a few have the insight to fathom the obscure areas of his conscience that advocated a social order with egalitarian and utopian ideals. “Bhagat Singh’s fight was not against the British or against white skin; his fight was against the unfair system and the disparity that existed in society. He wanted the fruits of labour to be distributed equally and this problem still prevails”, says Shasta. The play was choreographed by Satbir Singh under the music composed by A R Rehman & Prem Dhawan and dialogues input by Piyush Mishra & Deendayal Sharma. Shivam Sharma, a student of class XII at Sanawar has played the lead role of Bhagat Singh in the play.
The play encompasses some rare episodes from various stages of Bhagat Singh’s life. His colloquial references with his mother, friends, colleagues and foes authenticate his ideology. He revolted against the conservative values of realism and the lingering certainty of enlightened thinking and rejected the existence of a compassionate all-powerful creator God in favour of the abstract, unconventional, largely uncertain ethic brought on by modernity, initiated around the turn of century by rapid changing technology.
The play begins with the backdrop screening of a group of deaf and dumb students singing the national anthem with articulate gestures evoking the universal message that ‘patriotism knows no language; it is a feeling that can be expressed in any language’. The following scene unfolds a bewildered child Bhagat Singh witnessing the police taking away his father and uncle. This event is his first interface with the fact that he is a slave in his own country. Another touching scene in the play depicts a young Bhagat Singh being urged by his mother to renounce his celibacy. He then meets the prospective girl and reveals his bent of mind to her and later deserts his home leaving behind a letter addressed to his father saying that he has already tied the nuptial knot with ‘freedom’.
The play showcases the significance of Pagri Sambhal Jatta, a movement initiated by Bhagat Singh,s uncle (Ajit Singh) for restraining the peasants to offer their turban to the British in lieu of waiving their revenue. Bhagat Singh, a sophomore presents an item song of similar theme at the college annual function.
Bhagat Singh’s ideology is very relevant in today’s world. Talking about Bhagat Singh’s jail dairy, Shasta say’s, “While he was in jail, he had written that the British will leave the country in the next 14-15 years. After that for the next 40-45 years, immense corruption will prevail and influential class will loot money and the gap between the rich and poor will be widened. But he was also optimistic and had written that after 60-65 years, some enlightened and honest individuals will come together and work for the reforms”.
“I believe that time has come. The inveterate corruption in the society will culminate into an ethical catharsis that will purge the society of this social evil. I expect people from various quarters to come together to evolve a new socio-economic structure in the country. Bhagat Singh’s prognosis is an apocalypse in the likes of Anna Hazare, Medha Patkar and many others, who are the valid proponent of his thoughts”, muses Shasta.
The play also unravels the clash between the ideologies of Gandhi and Bhagat Singh. Where as Gandhi’s demand was in line with a dominion status for India. Bhagat Singh wanted total independence. The latter believed that there can be no dialogue between the powerful and the weak, Bhagat Singh’s bombing of the Central Assembly in Delhi and his trial thereafter were the means to reach out to the plebs, as his day-to-day statements in the court were disseminated by the media. Even Gandhiji got apprehensive about Bhagat Singh’s growing popularity. This was another reason why he didn’t negotiate for Bhagat Singh’s amnesty during the second Round Table Conference at London.
The play ends with Bhagat Singh’s execution. He is in the prison reading the biography of Vladimir Lenin when the warden arrives to take him to the execution chamber. He finishes his book and walks bravely to his death. True to the definition of theater, which occurs when one or more human beings, isolated in time and space, present themselves to others; the play is enacted by a mammoth cast of 150 students and is replete with improvised light and sound effect that gives it a melodramatic outlook. Above all, the play presents as a food for thought to the youth of India, whether the sacrifices made by our heroes have betrayed the egalitarian and utopian ethos of the nation.
Siddharth Shasta is a post-graduate from the renowned Film and Television Institute, Pune. A budding artist with seven plays and three feature films covering both commercial and international cinema to his credit, he is a charismatic and versatile person of 24 years. Having worked in commercial film like ‘Lafange Parinde’ and international film like ‘Man’s Woman and other Stories’ that won Special Mention Award at Venice Film Festival 2009, he is currently working on Kagaar (Geeta Films), based on the making of a naxalite. His propensity for theatre is no less. “Theatre has always been my first love. The thespian in me incited me to work in a school and encourage young minds to the aesthetic and exquisite world of theatre, which gives one the forum to express the powerful emotions of people dead and living, who have made a difference and left footprints on the sands of time. I am grateful to The Lawrence School, Sanawar for producing the play and to the headmaster Mr Praveen Vasisht for extending his gracious guidance and support, without which this play wouldn’t have been a reality”, says Shasta.
“The students have worked hard to bring forth the struggle and sacrifice of Bhagat Singh in a befitting and realistic manner. I am overwhelmed with their successful performance and the zealous delectation manifested by the audience. Sanawar has indeed made its footprints in the sands of time by glorifying the convictions and sacrifices made by our freedom fighters”, proclaims Vasisht. The bursar of the school Mr PK Sharma said that besides giving an insight into the trials and tribulations of our nation’s freedom struggle, such performances help the students to imbibe patriotic values. The Dean of Faculties Dr VK Sharma was also present during the occasion.