Whether it was Shah Jahan building the monument of love for his wife or Shivaji escaping from prison in a basket, Indian history is full of intriguing tales. On January 26, a new Hindi play, Bhamasha, will premiere at the Tata Theatre, NCPA, bringing to the audience another rich chapter from India's freedom struggle.
The tale dates to the time of Akbar's reign in India. Bhamasha was a rich merchant who chose to donate all his wealth to help the legendary Rajput warrior Maharana Pratap raise an army against the British.
Rather than just his philanthropy, the play will explore the other sides to Bhamasha's character as well.
"People know him largely for his benevolence, but not many know that Bhamasha was also a capable warrior. He fought alongside Maharana Pratap in all his battles. Bhamasha was also an astute individual and is also referred to as the Chanakya of the Rajputs," says director Manoj Shah.
The play will be narrated by veteran actor Om Puri. Actor Daya Shankar Pandey, who has been part of films such as Lagaan (2001) and Swades (2004), plays the role of Bhamasha. He admits that he was bowled over by the intensity of his character.
It's amazing how these men fought for their motherland with such passion. There's this line in the play where Maharana Pratap asks Bhamasha if he's giving him all his money as charity and the latter replies saying that it was not charity, but a dedication to his motherland. That scene is incredible," says Pandey. He adds that he has tried to give the character his own distinct style.
"Theatre is not like film where you shoot a scene and it is done. You can improvise on your character. That's what I've tried to do."
The play also features music by folk musician Chugge Khan and his ensemble of musicians from Rajasthan. "I am trying to tell a story that's 300 years old. I need to be able to take the audience back to that time, so it needs to feel as real as possible," says Shah.