Karl Marx wants to travel out of Germany. Russia is too cold. China has the language barrier.
A voice from above warns him against going south, but the untravelled life is not worth living. Marx has heard about one MK Gandhi and knows that his country has two communist parties, one even named after him.
So he heads to Mumbai and asks a taxi driver to take him to Mani Bhavan. Mani Bhavan is closed for the day and Marx meets a Gujarati named Manoj Shah, who takes him to Kalbadevi, the heartland of Gujarati capitalism, then to the Mumbadevi temple and later to an eatery called Bhagat Tarachand.
Shah, Marx’s guide, is also director of the play Karl Marx in Kalbadevi, which was performed to a full house on Wednesday at the Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Arts Festival. Film editor and actor Satchit Puranik plays Marx.
“It was originally a shot in the dark,” says Puranik, of the play. “The director said he did not expect more than 20 people to attend. We thought our audience would ask ‘Who is Karl Marx?’ But when we performed the play, even in Gujarat, the response was overwhelming.”
For Shah, a veteran of Gujarati theatre for 37 years, the point of the play was to communicate with a community that thrives on capitalism.
“The idea was to do minimal theatre. I was looking for a character; Marx was read and written about,” he says. “Every Gujarati child grows up dreaming about owning a shop and a business. A lot of educated people have read about him. This was the right community to introduce Marx to.”
As for his own stand on Marx, Shah says he has none. “I stand on a stage,” he adds. “I have drifted in and out of various ideologies.”