Kadak Badshahi — a play premiered three years ago telling stories from the 600-year-old history of Ahmedabad — is back with its second edition that includes a bigger cast, new characters, an even brighter sensorial experience and tongue-in-cheek political commentary.
The play — which traverses through the history of Ahmedabad from the city’s foundation to Mughal-era, British rule, growth of textile mills and various modern agitations — this year will also focus on student-powered movements, such as Navnirman Andolan of 1974 against the then Congress government, and like its earlier version, will feature real-life players in the city’s history in its narrative. This new version is being created and directed by Yadavan Chandran and scripted by Mallika Sarabhai and Nisarg Trivedi.
Danseuse Mallika Sarabhai, one of the original creators of Kadak Badshahi, said, “Our greatest challenge is to create the new experience. We are transferring and transforming a hugely successful three-year-old show and are ensuring that the experience of the audience at the Shreyas (Foundation) amphitheatre is mesmerising. Natarani which was our own older venue is an intimate space which has many advantages. But, here we will be using a massive amphitheatre.”
Called Kadak Badshahi 2.0, the “new version” of the performance will showcase various stories from Ahmedabad celebrating the city’s history and culture. The visual treat will take place at Shreyas amphitheatre from January 18 to February 1, every night at 8.30 pm.
Sarabhai, who has worded Kadak Badshahi along with Nisarg Trivedi, said that the history of Ahmedabad “will not be presented in an apolitical manner”.
“There is a lot of tongue-in-cheek political commentary like it has been in the other versions. We cannot reveal all the details now, but there will be many new scenes and characters in the 2.0 version,” said Sarabhai.
New actors include Professor Arthur Duff, who is the head of furniture design at CEPT university, radio jockey and actor Devaki, folk singer Aditya Gadhvi and comedian Ojas Rawal.
“I have no idea what role I am playing. No one here knows which character they are playing. We will all get to know it soon. I got a call from Mallika and that was it. This will be my first performance and it is a new frontier for me and I will do it. I will find a balance between my work and rehearsals as this will demand a lot of time,” said Duff.
Commenting on the “exclusion” of women and adivasi characters in the history of the city, Devaki said, “There are many women who have contributed to the history of the city and not many people know about them. In Kadak, we will be bringing their stories along with stories of adivasis who have fought for the city.”
On the premises of Shreyas Foundation, the Shrimati Bharatidevi Sarabhai Shrirangam Amphitheatre, an open air space, can accommodate over 3,000 spectators. The 33-metre stage has a front adorned with fountains and a pool of water. The amphitheatre was established by Leena Sarabhai, sister of the late Vikram Sarabhai, father of India’s space programme.
Reflections from the stage on the water body ends up creating a mirror image and actors call it “a parallel illusionary world”. The highest step of the theatre, named Chitrakoot, provides a glimpse of the city lights during the night.
Talking about new elements in Kadak Badshahi 2.0, Chandran, said, “In the new version, we have a longer piece on the Navnirman Movement. In the previous versions, it was only for a few minutes, but this time it is about 10 minutes. We want people to remember that the students movement which found its roots in Ahmedabad ultimately lead to the Emergency.”
Manishi Jani, one of the leaders in the Navnirman Movement who has been playing himself in the previous versions of the play, said, “This time we might be possibly bringing in other movements which have happened in Ahmedababd in the past. I will get to know that as soon as we start rehearsals.”
Padma Shri award winning architect B V Doshi, who had been a narrator in the previous version, said, “I will be doing a similar role and talking about the heritage of the city. The performance will also look into pols and stories around them. The pols should not only be remembered, but also replicated and through this play we will be able to tell people about the rich legacy around the pols.”
The money that will be raised in the shows will be used for the rebuilding of Natarani — a venue in Darpana Academy which is hub of national and international arts.
The uniqueness of Kadak Badshahi is that it brings together the Who’s Who of the city’s arts and culture – many who have never before performed together.
Kadak Badshahi, which takes its name from a brewed tea favoured by the founder of the city Ahmed Shah Badshah, has roots in Darpana’s celebration of Ahmedabad’s 600th year by members of Darpana Academy of Performing Arts in 2011 — called ‘600 Not Out’.
In one of the events, actors would read poems on Ahmedabad while painters would paint as the poems were read. Kadak Badshahi was a part of this larger event. It included photo and short film competitions in the city of Ahmedabad. The entire event lasted for three days and Kadak was performed in Natarani.
In the 2015 version, the directors Yadavan Chandran, Mallika Sarabhai and Nisarg Trivedi reconstructed the play which ran for three seasons and 33 continuous full-house nights. Over 100 actors from Ahmedabad came together for Kadak Badshahi.
“Ahmedabad is famous for its chai. And when there were mills in the city, chai became popular with people and tea vendors gave various names to their chai. One of it was Kadak Badshahi chai and we used it as a metaphor for the people of Ahmedabad. The idea of the performance is to celebrate the lesser known people who have shaped the city of Ahmedabad. Everyone speaks about Ahmed Shah or Manek Baba but not many know about the mill workers and Majoor Mahajan who got reforms or students who brought a revolution,” said Nisarg Trivedi.