The Historic Homecoming

Award-winning play Ghashiram Kotwal,which has completed 40 years of performance,was staged at the Nana Wada for the first time.

Written by Rohan Swamy | Published:March 15, 2013 2:06 am

Award-winning play Ghashiram Kotwal,which has completed 40 years of performance,was staged at the Nana Wada for the first time.

When lights in the three centuries-old Nana Wada were dimmed on Wednesday,the excitement in the air was palpable. Soft ambient lighting,an august crowd,riot police vans on the outside and a historic homecoming of sorts — these and more added to the heritage structure when Marathi play Ghashiram Kotwal at the Wada on Wednesday. The play,which is in its four decade-long run,was staged at this venue for the first time.

Given that the play is based on statesman Nana Phadnavis of the erstwhile Maratha Empire and has had controversy attached to it,the excitement was understandable. But when the customary bell rang,a hushed silence fell upon the audience. The collaborative efforts of two theatre groups,the Nalinottam and the Pandav,was evident. Even with minimum lighting and props on stage,actor Madhav Abhyankar’s booming voice saw him slip into the skin of Nana Phadnavis effortlessly,just as he has for the last 20 years.

Abhyankar,who had a nightmarish run of sorts organising all the props and setting up the play,said that performing at the Nana Wada was suggested by a friend a long time ago. “The idea to recreate history in the place it was born had come almost 12 years ago. But there were date issues,commitment issues and other whatnots. We did,however,manage to secure the Wada for the performance on March 13,which was also Nana’s death anniversary,” he says.

Originally written by Vijay Tendulkar and directed by Jabbar Patel in December 1972,the play had been in the eye of a storm when it was first staged. A temporary ban was imposed for portraying the statesman in poor light and hurting the sentiments of the Chitpavan Brahmin community.

There were no such hiccups this time around as Vijay Govind directed it. Although Abhyankar does mention that there was a scare on Wednesday morning. “Some members of the Patit Pavan Sanghatna threatened to stall the performance but we reasoned it out with them,” he adds.

An important factor that Abhyankar talks about is the interpretation of Nana’s character. “He was a brilliant statesman who held together the Maratha Empire for a long time before it fell to the British. Through the performance,I highlight his life as a politician and a statesman,” he says.

The rising pitches of Nana’s booming voice,the quiet resilience of Ghasiram ( played by Prakash Dhotre),the built up anger of the Brahmin chorus,Ghasiram’s struggle for a moral high ground and the final solution were all held together in a tight fabric by the 43-member team. For those in the crowd who had seen the same performance by Dr Mohan Agashe and Ramesh Tilekar four decades ago,history was re-written with thunderous applause at the 300-year old building that was once home to the statesman.

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