Not many revolutionaries are as well known as Bhagat Singh. That isn’t a surprise, because this country saw some great men and women, many nameless, fight for its independence. The stories of two such men will take the spotlight this weekend, with the staging of Theatre Nisha’s upcoming production – Pandit aur Pathan . “Pathan is a brave mountain man from the Hindukush; Ashfaqullah Khan was a Pathan, while Pandit Ramprasad Bismil was an erudite Hindu scholar. We decided to juxtapose the stories of these two men — Bismil, a strong believer of Hinduism and Khan, the staunch Muslim — who joined forces to carry out the famous Kakori conspiracy against the British Raj, in a one-man show in Hindi,” explains director V. Balakrishnan.
In 2006, after the release of Rang De Basanti , the contributions of the revolutionaries (Bismil played by actor Atul Kulkarni; Khan played by Kunal Kapoor) were highlighted in popular culture. The two men, famous for their meticulous plan to loot the Government’s treasury, were part of the Hindustan Republic Association (Bismil was one of the founding members), to which Bhagat Singh and Chandrasekhar Azad also belonged. They carried out many attempts to disrupt the Government and obtain its funds, in a bid for the country’s freedom.
About two years ago, Balakrishnan wanted to bring their stories to life on stage — from their initiation as revolutionaries till their martyrdom — as a two-person play. Ultimately, however, in keeping with the streak of engaging monologues performed by Theatre Nisha, he decided to let the single actor stand supreme.
“Lots of research has been done into their biographies and autobiographies, and the script is a fresh adaptation for the stage,” says Balakrishnan. The monologue, adapted for stage and performed by actor Anantharaman Karthik, is woven in with famous poems of the two revolutionaries, which are sung as songs. “They were both brilliant poets and have left behind many ghazals. Some of these, like the famous revolutionary song ‘Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna’ popularised by Bismil, moved people to join the freedom struggle. The main challenge was to weave them into the play without making it seem cut-and-paste,” says the director.
Pandit Aur Pathan is in Hindi and will be performed at Spaces, Besant Nagar on September 5 and 6 at 7 p.m. Entry is free.