DR M Sayeed Alam’s ‘Maulana Azad’, staged at Bharat Bhavan on Thursday as a part of the Adi Vidrohi Drama Festival, is a revelation of the sorts in a way that it brings various untold points of the freedom movement to the forefront in a very refreshing manner, that were otherwise hidden on account of the fact that many of us chose to observe the struggle from the Gandhian and the Nehruvian point of view.
Possibly, because it was only their side that was majorly and eloquently captured in textbooks for generations to follow.
Presented by Pierrot’s Troupe, a Delhi-based theatre group known for original and topical plays, ‘Maulana Azad’ is a play completely meant for the intellectual class because it somewhere delves more into the nitty-gritty of politicking within the Indian National Congress than getting into the ‘drama console’, speaking in the traditional sense of the word.
The second reason as to why it is reserved for the select category is the chaste and refined Urdu that has been rolled out in the entire play during the delivery of dialogues, anecdotes and poetry.
Set against the backdrop of the Maulana’s dictation to friend and scribe Humayun for the foreword for his acclaimed book ‘India Wins Freedom’ the play brings out the multifaceted personality of Maulana Azad as a freedom fighter, as the Muslim face of the Congress (often jeered as the ‘show boy’ of the Congress by the Muslim League) and as a humorous effervescent scholar who often slips into the ‘apolitical’ side, while talking about his book largely political in theme (about the Indian freedom movement) to his translator in English.
But the narrative often moved to the lighter side when he starts speaking on issues ranging from ‘Jasmine’ tea to the Taj Mahal, from music to Mecca and from the ‘Bengal Movement’ to his ‘Begum’ (reveries of his wife). Interspersed with some beautiful Urdu verses, the play went on to regale the audience in the City, who gathered in large numbers to savour this theatrical treat.
‘Maulana Azad’ also peeps into many tricky issues like the secular role of the Congress, Gandhi’s role in triggering the Partition, his silent approval for meeting out the undue demands of Jinnah, Nehru’s subtle and unintentional inclination towards electing Hindu leaders and many other decisive loopholes that have perhaps remained unnoticed to many of us while turning the pages of history.
But the USP of the play, apart from its brilliant scripting, remains to be noted actor and theatre personality Tom Alter, who speaks impeccable Urdu belying his ‘firangi looks’, thus executing the Maulana’s great persona as the architect of Modern India to finesse. Undoubtedly it was Alter who proved to be crowd puller.