How a street play made it to the auditoriums

In 2021 when fifty years of the 1971 Indo-Pak war was being celebrated with a victory torch, Maj. Gen. M. Indrabalan (retd) figured out a way of keeping that flame alive beyond that celebration

April 14, 2024 05:42 am | Updated 05:57 am IST

Operation Vijay 1971, a play about the 1971 Indo-Pak war, was staged recently at Guru Nanak college in Velachery.

Operation Vijay 1971, a play about the 1971 Indo-Pak war, was staged recently at Guru Nanak college in Velachery. | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

An expert was once a hobbyist -- ask Maj. Gen. M. Indrabalan (retd). Towards the tail-end of his career in the army, theatre began to fascinate him. This fascination was not so much with the process of theatre as with its impact. The interest was not sparked watching a play, but a grand event, one that played out across the nation.

In 2021, the nation was celebrating 50 years of the 1971 Indo-Pak war, with a victory torch going through hands wielding the scepter in all the states of India. The media kept the flame alive.

When Indrabalan saw images of the victory torch doing a parade of the country, having been sent across to governors and chief ministers, he instinctively sensed there could be more to it. The flame of Indian pride could inflame more hearts, young hearts, if only it stayed alive beyond the news cycle. It was not long before he figured out theatre could do that trick. At that time, he was serving as Additional Director General of the National Cadet Corps in Bihar.

When the play was staged at Guru Nanak college.

When the play was staged at Guru Nanak college. | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

“I put together a 20-minute street play on the 1971 war with around 20 NCC cadets as actors. I trained them on how to enact the street play on streets. I asked them to go on a cycle tour of the districts of Bihar and in each district head quarters, they would have to stage the street play on the street. The street play became popular. That is when I realised that it had a potential to create awareness about the war among the masses,” observes Indrabalan, whose father, late Capt. K. Govindan (retd) from 17 Madras Regiment had taken part in the 1971 war.

He continues: “I got hold of a theatre company , a research lasting one full year followed, and we came up with a Hindi script. While it took us one year to write the script, it took almost another one year to stage the play, titled ‘Operation Vijay 1971’ at Patna (in August, 2023).”

Art and theatre group Surangan and non-profit, women’s empowerment organisation Gulmohar Maitri had been instrumental in the process of the play being made and staged.

The play began to travel to other parts of the country, including Chennai.

It was around the time Indrabalan retired from the army and settled down in the cantonment area on Flagstaff Road in Chennai.

The play now continues to be staged at venues drawing diverse audiences -- on March 31, 2024, it was at Guru Nanak College in Velachery and on April 13, 2024 at Officers Training Academy in St. Thomas Mount.

An English adaptation of the original Hindi play, titled “Birth of Bangladesh”, produced by produced by NCC UDAAN TN and directed by S.B.S. Raman, has come into being.

Indrabalan points out work to stage the play in Tamil and Malayalam is under way. He adds that the Malayalam version is being produced with the support of A.V. Anoop, managing director of AVA Group of Companies.

What began as a hobby has now become a full-time engagement.

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