How the Americans warmed up to Kasturba Gandhi
US-based Sanjay Maggirwar's English adaptation of the Marathi play, Jagadamba, about Kasturba Gandhi was an eye-opener for the Americans. In a freewheeling chat with Surekha S, he tells us about how she managed to inspired one of the biggest leaders of the 20th century
“Jagadamba means mother of the universe. Kasturba Gandhi was a woman completely devoted to her husband and her family. In many ways, she denotes Jagadamba, hence the name,” explains Sanjay Maggirwar about the title of his play. Maggirwar has been living in the US for nearly 20 years, and he has been staging this one-woman play for the American audience. It’s been running to packed houses, he chips in.
Ramdas Bhatkal originally wrote the play in Marathi, and it has been staged in several venues across India, where Rohini Hattangadi essayed the role of Kasturba. “It was also performed at the Rashtrapati Bhavan,” reveals Maggirwar, a researcher by profession. A few months back, Yashodhara Maitra read the Marathi play and decided to translate it in English. She started doing play readings of the English play in different places including Kolkata, Shantiniketan, Bengaluru and Mumbai as well as at The Gandhi Center for Non-Violence at the University of Rochester.
Soon, she did a play reading at Seneca Falls, New York and invited Maggirwar to witness it. “The audience, which was predominantly American, was drawn in, completely. I was impressed by her ability to hold the audience’s attention for over two hours. She had translated the play beautifully and none of the emotions in the dialogues were lost. When I met her, I expressed my plan to stage it as a one-woman play,” he reveals.
Having been in New York for years together, he joined the Indian Community Centre. Ten years ago, his love for theatre made him become part of Kalidas, a theatre group and since then, he has staged plays on different subjects.
Jagadamba, he feels, is different as it is a play about a very powerful man through the eyes of his wife. “Kasturba was a simple, uneducated woman. She married a gigantic person and in his shadow she evolved. She developed her own ideologies. Gandhi’s thinking was 100 years ahead of his time. Kasturba learnt to keep pace with that. She became his strength and an inspiration to him.
This play looks at her life, her struggles,” explains Maggirwar adding that her strength and devotion has appealed to the American audience, who loved the play. Though Maitra has never acted before, Maggirwar feels that she has done a fantastic job and has managed to impress the audiences.
On Gandhi Jayanti, Maggirwar feels this is a fitting tribute to the Mahatma and his wife. “I plan to take the play to South Africa and bring it soon to India as well,” he tells us.