Few know that 2002 was not the first time communal riots ravaged Godhra. Even fewer know that the riots in the 1930s were witnessed by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who then wrote extensively on the subject. This and other revelations about Bappu form the crux of the play, OMG — The Lesser Known Side of Gandhi, which will be staged at the Taj Mahal Palace today as part of a fundraising project to aid the Tata Medical Centre (TMC).
Conceptualised by Geeta Gopalakrishnan, donor relationships director of the TMC, the play sees her acting alongside veteran actor Dalip Tahil and professional storyteller Seema Anand. “The play is essentially a dialogue between Gandhi (Dalip) and a sutradhaar (storyteller, played by Seema), with Mother Earth (Geeta) looking on. Seema plays a skeptical woman who questions Gandhi about several problems that exist in India today. Gandhi, meanwhile, sits aloof at his desk, serenely meeting all her challenges,” says Dalip.
For the production, Geeta says she spent hours rediscovering Gandhi at Mani Bhavan. And the fruits of her study led her to present Mahatma differently. “This play doesn’t have a hint of ahimsa, satyagraha, or any of the things people normally expect from Gandhi. He actually wrote on topics such as ayurveda, pollution and health,” she says.
Playing the father of the nation was demanding for Dalip. He confesses, “It was a huge challenge, primarily because I don’t look like the Mahatma! It was also very emotionally challenging, since Gandhi was a spiritually enlightened man. As an actor, I wanted to get into his thinking space — experience spirituality and try living a Gandhian lifestyle.”
But following Gandhi’s austere lifestyle was no easy task: “His spartan diet that I started following severely affected my nlood pressure. And I lost nine kilos!” adds Dalip.
What makes this production interesting is its novel approach. “The play’s quite irreverent compared to other works on Gandhi. The sutradhaar is quite arrogant, and demands that Gandhi answer her. Viewers will get to hear Gandhi’s views on many issues that are relevant today. His foresight was uncanny,” feels Geeta.
The team hopes to stir attendees with their production, and make sure Gandhi is not reduced to a poster in government offices. “The most we have been able to do is glamourise ‘Gandhigiri’ in films, and that is just not adequate,” adds Geeta.
The big issue
If you wish to attend the play, get ready to pay Rs 10,000 as a donation to Tata Medical Centre (TMC). There will also be a silent auction of paintings, with proceeds going to TMC. Tanishq Jewelers has designed a charkha pendant exclusively for the auction. “The idea is to spread awareness about the TMC,” says Geeta.