Mahatma Gandhi is widely known for the 1930 Dandi March and how it strengthened the farmers’ position in India. But it’s a little known fact that in 1928 Vallabhbhai Patel started the Bardoli satyagraha to provide relief to drought-stricken farmers of Gujarat from increased land tax rates imposed by the British India government. This successful agitation earned him the title ‘Sardar’.
Theatre director Jaimini Pathak highlights this significant contribution and juxtaposes it with the current agrarian crisis in Maharashtra where farmers are reeling under drought in Marathwada and Vidarbha in his latest play Postcards From Bardoli. The 80-minute piece follows the story of a young boy, Mihir, hailing from an affluent family and how he strives to help the present-day farmers seeking inspiration from Sardar Patel and the historical Bardoli Satyagraha.
Pathak says, “This event was India’s first major victory against the British in the independence struggle. It also inspired Mahatma Gandhi for the Dandi march. Ramu Ramanathan was inspired to pen this topical play after he travelled widely to different parts of Maharashtra and saw the current state of affairs. While the play deals with these issues, at its heart it’s a story about a father-son relationship.”
While the father, played by Pathak, is a happy-go-lucky guy who believes in living life to the fullest, the son (Amol Parashar) is idealistic and strives to serve the society. Pathak explains, “My character is very complex and layered. He is the life and soul of a party and assumes that his son will follow the same path but is quite taken aback when his son decides to chart his own future.”
Parashar, who has acted with Pathak earlier in his productions such as Dirty Talk and Kachra Tales, admits that essaying this role came with its own sense of responsibilities. “Mihir, my character, adapts Vallabhbhai’s ideologies into the play. At the same time, it was quite ironical that even after 100 years Indian farmers are facing the same problems and we are still looking for answers. It has been a learning process for me.”
Though the story moves back and forth in time, the production doesn’t boast of lavish sets or props. Parashar says, “The son corresponds with the father through postcards. Rather than using sets, we have depicted this thought and the communication process through dialogues.”
Pathak admits that though the story has a strong historical and contemporary context, his primary aim is to ensure that the audiences are entertained.
“Craftwise, it has been challenging as we have used storytelling and music as simple devices to bring history alive and make the piece relevant today. It is important to engage and entertain people. Only then will they think about the underlying message,” he explains. Plans are afoot to stage Postcards From Bardoli in schools and colleges across the country and also at theatre festivals.
When: 7 and 9 pm, July 9 and 10
Where: Prithvi Theatre, Janki Kutir, Juhu