OMG — the lesser-known side of Gandhi, is a play based on the private conversations, letters and thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi. Researched and conceptualised by Geeta Gopalakrishnan, the play includes actor Dalip Tahil as Gandhi and Seema Anand, a well-known storyteller, who will narrate anecdotes. Excerpts from an interview.
What inspired you to write this play?
I wanted to do a play in London where the Indian community can sit back and enjoy... like a fundraiser. I had heard of Vijay Padki’s play on Gandhi, Prophet and the Poet, but to stage that I would have to pay £17,000 because the rights of the play were with someone in London. Then, someone told me that about the 40,000 books in Mani Bhavan, where I could read about Gandhi. I realised that there would be something about Gandhi’s life that not many know about. In the initial research, I discovered that Gandhi had spoken about Godhra. I also read about where he spoke about Hindu-Muslim unity. I found countless issues that he spoke about like Diwali crackers and noise pollution, gender issues, and issues relevant to today’s India. This compelled me to write the 40-minute play.
There have been countless plays and films about Mahatma Gandhi. What is new and different here?
Usually, plays and films on Gandhi are based on things that have happened years ago. So while that brings nostalgia, lot of people don’t relate to it. From all the Gandhi text that I read, I shunned everything that was conncted with Ahimsa because that’s been done to death. So I found things that are relevant today. For example, he said something about statues similar to the issue of statues that was raised after Mayawati’s elephant statues. So I found many such links and put together things that we don’t see in Gandhi plays.
Whenever people or the creative medium talks about historical figures, often audiences tend to get sensitive about the stuff being spoken about. Weren’t you afraid that your play might too stir up a controversy?
Gandhi said something very interesting and evocative on the Parda. Something, which even we talk about, but I laid off that subject because every faith is entitled to its belief. When I used Godhra, he said something so interesting that Muslims and Hindu will love it. So, it’s not controversial. He said many things about the Congress, but we didn’t go that way because we don’t want to stir up a controversy.
Tell us something about the cause behind the staging of the play?
Few years ago, I made a short-film about a girl with cancer called Koel. When I showed it to people, it moved them. It was about spreading awareness. Similarly, we are using this play to raise funds for cancer patients.
Dalip Tahil speaks...
The play: “The play is a dialogue between Mother Earth, who talks philosophically about Gandhi, who was a mahatma sent to earth. Then there is a narrator, who represents today’s times, and is asking questions to Gandhi, and there is me, as Gandhi who is answering those questions.” The character: “It was a huge challenge because I don’t look like Gandhi at all, so I had to go through a major physical transformation. Twice, I went on a diet that I failed to follow.”