?Devi Ahilyabai? revisited
IT WAS in 1784 when ?she? last visited the place to dedicate the chhatri built in the memory of her father-in-law Malhar Rao. It was an occasion to be remembered ? it was celebration and feast time for the entire town for three days.india Updated: Mar 19, 2006 13:42 IST
IT WAS in 1784 when ‘she’ last visited the place to dedicate the chhatri built in the memory of her father-in-law Malhar Rao. It was an occasion to be remembered — it was celebration and feast time for the entire town for three days.
Mallika Prasad, playing the lead role in Devi Ahilya Bai, visited Rajwada — the very seat of Holkar rule in evening today. No wonder her eyes had a searching look, for the palace was not built in her times but during the reign of Malhar Rao II.
‘Devi Ahilyabai’ is the story of Ahilyabai Holkar (Mallika Prasad), daughter-in-law of the first Maratha Governor of Malwa, who eventually became ruler herself of Malwa. She is revered as a noble ruler who had rare social and political acumen as well as being a prodigious philanthropist.
The granite floor replacing preferred red stone, congestion of automobiles in lieu of stately elephants and the general hubbub would have been enough to baffle the real erstwhile Ahilya Bai.
A top NSD graduate and an acting teacher, Mallika Prasad, poised and not one bit cowed by the grandeur of the imposing Vastu and the presence of modern Subedars, graced the special screening of the film at Rajwada.
The movie Devi Ahilya Bai, made by Nachiket and Jayoo Patwardhan, was launched in Indore by Saathi — a Mumbai based NGO working for the welfare of runaway girls. Despite the absence of Harku Bai (Shabana Azmi), who gave moral support to Ahilya, this Ahilya was very much on her own. Her bluish grey eyes were expressive of something beyond what was in plain sight.
Obviously the mantle of the great lady had some lasting effect, Mallika admitted. The Narmada countryside Maheshwar Fort, were as enchanting as described as black Taj by some historians, but the presence of a hand behind it was very much palpable and inspiring, she revealed in an informal chat.
Malhar Rao I to whom the township of Indore was bequeathed in 1732 was apparently as amazed as Ahilya. Again the reference is to Sadashiv Amrapurkar who portrayed the character of the triumphant general. For the bad man of cinema it brought about a change of heart.
One used to maltreat innocent women on screen was now standing like a rock by their side. The effect was visibly sobering on the persona of Amrapurkar.
Another member of the royalty whose presence was missed was Prakash Dhotre or Tukoji Rao Holkar whom Ahilya Bai had charged with the responsibility of Indore during her stay at Maheshwar.
Indore owes generation of its rulers to him. It is worth contemplating how they would have reacted to the present-day Indore. Come what may, Ahilya shall always be remembered in this city even though her movie will stay only for a brief while.