Enjoyed the play Godse@gandhi.com by Asmita theater group in Shri Ram Center for Art & Culture, Mandi house, New Delhi on 8th October 2017 night. The play was directed by Arvind Gaur and written by Asghar Wajahat. Here is my review of the play in detail. Before the actual play started, street play was going on by Asmita Theater group artists near the entrance on varies subjects like child labor, effects of tobacco, female harassment and many such social issues.
I went for the play with varied expectations and excitements, since the brief story line was already known, that Gandhi survived the bullets and after recovery, wants to meet Nathuram Godse. What you can expect is a variety of things and instances. The play is mainly based on dialogue between the two and their own interpretation of Hindutva, Freedom, Nationalism and Gita. Perceptions may vary but if Gandhi is to live after that attack and meet Godse, the first thing he does, is to forgive Godse, as Gandhi in the play does. From my limited understanding of Gandhi, this seems obvious.
In a note dated January 27, 1948, three days before he was assassinated by Godse, Gandhi wrote that the Congress has “outlived its use” in its present form, should be disbanded, in an article of Harijan dated Feb 2, 1948, a phrase added by his associates.
But in the Harijan published on 1 Feb 1948, an article written by Gandhi dated January 27, 1948 says different story, and gives a detailed meaning to his aspirations from the congress. He writes,
‘Indian National Congress which is the oldest national political organization and which has after many battles fought her non-violent way to freedom cannot be allowed to die. It can only die with the nation. A living organism ever grows or it dies, The Congress has won political freedom, but it has yet to win economic freedom, social and moral freedom. These freedoms are harder than the political, if only because they are constructive, less exciting and non spectacular. All embracing constructive work evokes the energy of all the units of the millions.
Yesterday the congress was unwittingly the servant of the nation, it was khudai khidmatgar – God’s servant, let it now proclaim to itself and the world that it is only God’s servant – nothing more, nothing less. If it engages in the ungainly skirmish for power, it will find one fine morning that it is no more. I have only opened to view the distant scene, if I have the time and health, I hope to discuss in these columns what the servants of the nation can do to raise themselves in the estimation of their masters, the whole of the adult population, male and female.’ (1)
The play is an effort to depict these thoughts and present them by the way of the dialogue between Gandhi and Godse. The dialogues and whole discussion is good but they are presented in such bits and pieces that the effect gets dissolved. The effort of presenting such thought provoking instance is appreciable and bold, but somehow I felt that the maturity level in script for such serious dialogue was low. Inserting a love story of secondary characters for comic relief to viewers actually distracts and disconnects. Further bringing Kasturba to talk to Gandhi and open list of his mistakes – majority of which is how Gandhi was responsible for many failed relationships, was a lame effort altogether. I think that portion was not needed at all. The play also tries to establish a equally thoughtful and balanced talk between Gandhi and Godse; which can not be so. The extremist mindset of Godse cannot be put in parallel to Gandhi’s mindset. Gandhi’s efforts to get Brahmacharya rigidly followed by members of the Ashram also made the play less serious and broke the continuity of the viewer and that adds to low points of play.
Acting is a huge attraction for this play. Acting of Amit Rawal as Gandhi and Rahul Khanna as Godse is amazing, showing background clips and using the screen as background for jail scenes also adds to the flavor of the play. This is really a successful idea. Use of fewer props brings simplicity to the play which is welcome. Acting of other characters are also appreciable.
Overall this play started a new thread of thoughts in my mind and gave a whole new perspective to think what if Gandhi would have survived the attack. In many of his writings in Harijan, Gandhi wrote about his thinking and future course of events based on that. Does congress had guts to follow his suggestions about not ruling but serving the country? Could Nehru have accepted Gandhi’s role as a critic to Congress? Could Nehru sideline Gandhi if he is not in agreement with him for Government policies and his beliefs? What could have Gandhi’s future course of actions after not aligning with Congress? What could Godse have done further? what his disagreement with Gandhi may result in? Questions are plenty. Answers, well we have to guess ourselves. But this play is an honest effort in its own limitations to at least raise these questions in our mind.
As a play my take for point is 2.5 / 5
– Jignesh Adhyaru
(1) Ref. Harijan magazine issue at https://www.gandhiheritageportal.org/