Historical narratives have always been debated, depending on whose version finds a place. Delving deeper, Swetanshu Bora has addressed the place of history in modern life in his play Pagdi, winner of the 2013 Toto Funds the Arts Awards for creative writing in English.
The narrative centres around Dalwinder Singh Dhillon. Dalwinder, who is doing well professionally, moves from the suburbs of Amritsar, where he was born and raised, to Bangalore and is set to leave for the United States. In his pursuit for fortune, can Dalwinder choose to ignore his history?
The 1984 anti-Sikh riots is included within the narrative, but isn’t specifically explored in the play. “It’s a personal history,” says Swetanshu of the story, “I have used that period of history as a metaphor. Every culture has similar stories. It’s a personal history I have written about. Dalwinder’s father made a strong choice not to cut his hair during the riots, a fact his son didn’t know about, because no one told him about it. There are so many stories about survivors, but those who live to tell the tale, sometimes don’t tell it.”
Swetanshu initially began writing just Dalwinder’s character. It, however, turned into a full-length play when he began writing the father’s character. Speaking about the research process, Swetanshu says: “The research was predominantly on the riots, but I didn’t want to write about the riots per say, only how it had affected Dalwinder.”
Dalwinder, in his pursuit of wealth and opportunities, often puts up a front. “Sometimes the façade slips, and it is then that he faces his inner truth,” explains Swetanshu. The inner truth, thus, is a character in itself in the play. Swetanshu has also drawn from his experiences of working as a software engineer for five years. “I knew many techies who were always in search of better positions and better pay packages. Even though they would want to look back and examine their lives, they didn’t, eventually moving onto the next achievement. Dalwinder tries to brush his memories under the carpet, but his inner truth doesn’t allow him to do so,” says Swetanshu.
Vivek Vijayakumaran, who plays Dalwinder, says he was moved by the script. “I related to the human story. Swetanshu and I then had in-depth discussions on the character.” Samta Shikhar, who plays the inner truth, adds: “It’s been great fun playing the inner. I have had to be constantly in sync with Vivek’s energy.”
Pagdi, presented by Dramanon, will be staged at Ranga Shankara today and tomorrow at 7.30 p.m. Tickets are priced at Rs. 200 and are available on bookmyshow.com and indianstage.in. For tele-booking, call 9945281772.