The play ‘1857 – India’s War of Independence’, based on the travelogues of a young Brahmin priest, offers a unique perspective on the 1857 rebellion and an important eye-witness account of the events around Jhansi and Rani Laxmibai. When Vishnu Bhatt of Versai (a small village in Maharashtra) set out with his uncle in search of wealth, little did he know the adventures he would document.
Written as a memoir, in old-style Marathi in the traditional Modi script, the document titled Mazha Pravas or My Journey is about the charged atmosphere of India’s first war of Independence as documented by Bhatt.
The play focuses on the heroic young Rani of Jhansi and Tatya Tope, the general of Nana Sahib who fought the British forces and later came to the relief of Laxmibai. It also puts the spotlight on Bhatt, who witnessed what transpired at rebel strongholds like Jhansi (under Laxmibai), Bithur (Tatya Tope) and Kanpur (Nana Sahib).
“We did the same play with children in our summer workshop. It worked, so now we’re doing it with our senior student actors,” says JalabalaVaidya, director of the play. “There have been several films made and stories written about Laxmibai but there has been no focus on Vishnu Bhatt and the notes he kept. That is an important historical point.”
Bhatt was initially reluctant to write his memoirs, but after much coaxing by one of his associates, he eventually did do so. It was in 1881, 24 years after the mutiny, that he finished Mazha Pravas in Marathi.
The first translation in the modern Marathi script was published in 1948 by the Bharatiya Itihas Shodhak Mandal. The English translation was done by Mrinal Pande in the book 1857 The Real Story of the Great Uprising and was published decades later in 2011.
1857 – India’s War of Independence
When: 7pm, August 13 and 6pm, August 14
Where: Akshara Theatre, 11B, Baba Kharak Singh Marg