An unsung hero

Tipu’s real persona: Karnad takes a different look  

Girish Karnad's “The Dreams of Tipu Sultan” has been a subject of much academic discussion and research. The play portrays the Mysore king Tipu Sultan differently from how the British portrayed him. In the play, Karnad reveals Tipu's inner world and the political visionary and dreamer in him.

Theatre personality Arundhati Raja, as part of the Jagriti Theatre Festival, presents the play this month. “Girish Karnad's play brings out how much of our history has been written through the eyes of the British and how it has affected our's and the world's perception of Tipu Sultan. In the play, we see Tipu not only as the warrior we all know him as, but also as the statesman, the innovator, husband and father. Tipu's dream was to oust the British from India. He saw that the only way to do this was to form a united front of the Marathas, the Nizam of Hyderabad and all the other princely states. He was unsuccessful in this as everyone preferred to follow their own path for personal gain.”

Elaborate costumes, simple sets

While the costumes are elaborate, Arundhati says she chose to keep the sets minimal. “I did not want an opulent spectacle but a production design that was simple and supported the plot and the actors, rather than overshadowing them. The costumes are true of the era but Jayanthi's design is in a simple colour palette of brown, beige and white for Tipu and his family. The costumes of the British characters are true to the paintings. We discussed the way in which characters would walk and greet each other or the Sultan. Girish has written the script in formal English that befits the time. I made sure that the actors didn't paraphrase lines by using a modern phrase or word.”

All the roles have been essayed by Indian actors. This decision, Arundhati says, was a wise one. “Sanjay Iyer plays a dual role as the British historian, Colonel Colin McKenzie and the Maratha ruler, Nana Phadnavis. Roy Sinai plays Charles Malet, an envoy of the East India Company as well as Lord Mornington, Richard Wellesley. Vivek Madan plays a servant in Tipu's court and also Richard's brother, Arthur Wellesley.”

The other cast members are a combination of experienced and new actors, but all of them are equally talented. “With the exception of Jagdish Raja who plays the court historian, Hussain Ali Kirmani, all the rest are new to this production.”

Abhijeet Shetty is the perfect fit for the role of Tipu. “Poorniah, Tipu's finance minister is played by Harish Seshadri, well known in both Kannada and English theatre, Bimal Satyan and Ranvijay Pratap Singh, new actors to the Bangalore stage, play Mir Sadiq and Nadeem Khan (Quilledar) respectively. Rijul Ray doubles as Qamaruddin, Commander of the fort and as Maratha leader, Hari Pant Phadke.

“Swat De, seasoned actor of the Bengali stage, plays Begum Ruqayya Banu. I am extremely proud of our three young princes, played by four boys, who interchange some of the shows. They have been in our drama programme at Jagriti for some years now and are true actors.”

The Dreams of Tipu Sultan is being performed at Jagriti Theatre, Whitefield till May 20, from Tuesday to Saturday at 8 p.m. and on Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are priced at Rs. 300.

For bookings call 4124 2879 or visit

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2021 1:48:03 PM |

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