When Rani Laxmibai’s husband passed away, and the British laid claim on Jhansi by imposing the Doctrine of Lapse, the young widow in a moment of anger said: “Meri Jhansi nahin dungi” (I will not give you my Jhansi). Laxmibai earned the title of Jhansi of Rani for the valour with which she fought the British, while overcoming several personal setbacks. Theatre Nisha from Chennai brings her story to stage in their production Gallantly Fought the Queen , written and directed by V. Balakrishnan, to Bengaluru. The play is based on Mahashweta Devi’s The Queen of Jhansi , Ranee of Jhansi by D.V. Tahamankar and Jhansi ki Rani by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan.
Why did you choose Rani of Jhansi to write a play on?
I always had a childhood interest in freedom fighters, and though some of my passion waned for some of them, my love for some individual characters remained. I chose to do a play on Rani Laxmibai because I had recently read some documentations on her that changed a lot of my perceptions. Subhadra Kumari Chauhan’s poem, Jhansi ki Rani is also very inspiring.
What aspect of Rani Jhansi’s personality do you find admirable?
I have to tried to make sure Laxmi Bai comes as across as a human being, and not a superhero. She fought against all odds, for example the conflict she faced when the rebels reached Jhansi and she had to make a choice between the British and them.
How challenging is to create period theatre?
Because theatre, fortunately, has originated from storytelling, it can be completely honest, unlike film which has to make sure it sells. Typical to Theatre Nisha’s style we have minimal sets. We have basic costumes to depict the time period. And on stage will just be one character, Rani Jhansi, and two musicians.
Which language is the play in?
It is English and the songs are in Hindi.
What was the response to the play in Chennai, where it was staged recently?
We got a good response. There were even some schools and institutions who wanted us to perform the play for them.
(Gallantly Fought the Queen will be staged on April 8 at 7.30 p.m. and on April 9 at 3.30 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. at Ranga Shankara. Tickets are available on bookmyshow.com)