Ever thought you’d watch Mahatma Gandhi’s story in a song-and-dance form? We sneaked in to the rehearsals of Gandhi — The Musical
Dance rehearsals are ongoing in one room at the NCPA. There’s vocal training underway in another. And the actors are about to join in soon. The team of dancers begins to warm up, and starts practising their routine from act one. We’ve dropped in to the rehearsals of Gandhi — The Musical, an ambitious, Broadway-style musical tracing the life and works of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
Directed by Danesh Khambata, of Silly Point Productions, the 120-minute production will narrate the journey of Gandhi, taking us through his early years in South Africa, to the point where he came to be known as the father of the nation. For Khambata, the story struck him two and a half years ago. At the time, it was just another Gandhi story. “It was a regular play then with two songs. But I felt it didn’t do justice to the subject,” he says. So he decided to work on a musical instead.
The music had been in the making for a year. Once it was in sync with the script, the search for dancers, singers and actors began. Chirag Vora, known for acting in plays such as Gandhi ke Godse and Kishan vs Kanhaiya, plays the role of Gandhi. Boman Irani lends his voice to ‘the Raj’ — a character that portrays the system Gandhi was battling against. The cast includes 45 artists — 20 dancers, 12 actors, six lead actors and seven singers. Since history cannot be changed, Khambata has given the story his own interpretation by lending Gandhi’s consciousness a form. “His consciousness helps him find the right path. It will be portrayed in the form of different characters, say, for instance, a harijan. The idea is to show his human side,” he says.
Khambata ferociously takes notes as he watches the dancers rehearse. Slowly, props like chairs and tables come in while they rehearse the Partition sequence. Elastic bands
suspend the dancers who somersault mid-air. While a majority of the play is in English, it includes some songs in Hindi and Gujarati. The musical will make use of 3D mapping technology to portray the ‘the system’ — imagery from British raj will be interspersed with abstract videos . The sets are being designed by Fali Unwalla, who has designed 22 sets that keep rotating as per the scene. Even though there’s much to be done, a nervous Khambata hopes it will all come together as they inch towards the premiere. “The entire team started rehearsing together only last week. Preparations will continue till the last day,” he says.
Gandhi — The Musical will be staged from August 13 to 21
Address: Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, NCPA.
Tickets: Rs 500 to Rs 5,000