Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Question of freedom..

Few years back i watched this amazing play called “Ambedkar aur Gandhi”. It is a Hindi play directed by Arvind Gaur and performed by the highly talented theatre group “ASMITA”. Much has been written about this play. The play is not free from controversy. The director claims that every word in the script is recorded in history. However some critics doubt it.

Nevertheless, i watched this play again at “Sriram Theater”, New Delhi last week. It has a very powerful script. The play was so intense that by the time the play was over, though this was the second time i was watching this play, i had goose bumps on my skin.

I have already written about this play. I will not repeat it now. But like last time, i had a chance to talk to the director after the play.

Arvind Gaur is a very humble man. Short man of about five and a half feet, Arvind is full of energy and is totally dedicated to his work. He believes in theatre as a mode of social change. His Theater “Asmita” consists of more than 50 people.

The play that they were performing is on Socio-political history. “Ambedkar aur Gandhi” is a play on the delicate relationship between Gandhi and Ambedkar set in the backdrop of second round table conference on the issue of separate electorate for the schedule castes. As such, the most powerful character in the play is that of Dr Ambedkar. Performed by the brilliant young artist Bajrang Bali Singh, his role as Ambedkar can move any audience.

Arvind Gaur.
But Arvind and Asmita group have their share of problems in staging this play. They have to give an affidavit before every performance that there would not be any violence after the play. Not only in Delhi, but anywhere in india, the group runs into the bureaucracy before their performance. Arvind says, such highly talented and dedicated artists have to bend at the mercy of the line of bureaucracy right from the beat policeman till the DCP before every performance.

True, the play is controversial. It is very very critical of Gandhi. In my opinion, the play shows Gandhi more hypocritical than he was (perhaps). In more than one instance in the play, Ambedkar makes sarcastic remarks of Gandhi being a  “Mahathma”.

But at the end of the day, it is a piece of literature. It is art. The theater group has put the source of the script in public. Every dialogue, they claim, is recorded in history.

Afterall, the play is about the great man who drafted our constitution. Ambedkar stood for equality and freedom of speech.  This play was banned in Gujrat for many years. To perform this play anywhere in india, the group has to take permission from the police. Not only that, they have to give an affidavit.  Is this not restriction of “Freedom of Speech” ?
In our society, politicians can make dangerous hate speeches but a common man with rich social and cultural values cannot easily perform a historical play.

I will sign off by quoting a few lines of Dr Ambedkar (in constituent assembly) ;
On 26 January, 1950 we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics, we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics, we will be recognizing the principle of one man one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle on one man one value.. ”

PS : Posting this from the “Bangalore Rajadhani Express” somewhere in Andhra Pradesh.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article Sunil and very valid points. I think the fundamental issue is in our education system. We have always been taught about all the "good" aspects of our historical figures and portray them as "Infallible Demi-Gods", whose actions are beyond question. We ignore to provide a balanced view and encourage debate. This breeds intolerance and resentment.