Prime Minister Narendra Modi presented the National Award to the state in recognition of significant achievements during the closing ceremony of the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav and Amrit Kalash Yatra in New Delhi.
Navapalli Natya Sanstha (NNS), a leading amateur Bengali theatre group in the capital, brought to stage Anandamath”, a play based on a novel by Rishi Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. Navapalli always tries to furbish their productions with new theatrical innovations and experimentations and the play Anandamath(written in 1882) is again one such bold attempt. Directed by Biswajit Sinha and scripted by Soma Sinha and Biswajit.
The play, patriotism in nature, was presented at Bipin Chandra Pal Auditorium on 18 September. This mega venture coincides with “Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav”, an initiative of the Government of India to celebrate and commemorate 75 years of Independence.
The director explained to The Statesman that the play script is based on the most powerful and significant novel by Rishi Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, written in the background of the lesser known ‘Sanyasi Rebellion’ of the 18th century and 1770s great famine of Bengal during the period of Company Rule in India. It depicts the untrained yet disciplined Sanyasi soldiers fighting and trying to beat the experienced East India Company forces.
He said, “ ‘Anandamath’ is an apt production in this milieu of a festival of an awakening of the nation, the elixir of inspirations of the warriors of freedom struggle, their sacrifice, martyrdom, and elixir of new pledges and a rich tribute by bringing alive stories of unsung heroes who sacrifices have made freedom a reality.”
The dramatic version is in ten acts, it takes us back to the glorious past and reignites patriotism. The sanyasi of Anandamath are not true sanyasis, but common people who take the symbol of sanyasi and leave their household so as to rebel against the British forces, he added.
The main protagonists are Satyananda Maharaj, the role played by Prodip Ganguly, the head of Anandamath, and his two disciples, namely Jibananda by Palash Das and Bhavananda by Seshadri Mitra.
The storyline begins with Jibananda and Bhavananda discussing the current scenario of devastating famine and planning to capture the ammunition of the British army.
Mahendra Thakur, a landlord of village Padachinha stuck without food and water, was forced to leave his village with his wife Kalyani by Mousumi Acharya. He came in contact with the sanyasis of the Ashram and his wife Kalyani lost on way is, concurrently saved by Bhavananda Maharaj who takes her to the Ashram.
Satyananda Maharaj invokes the patriotic feelings in the mind of Mahendra who was earlier not reluctant but finally, he decides to serve the Mother Nation. Meanwhile, Kalyani attempts suicide so as to clear the path of her husband Mahendra for joining the Order. The Guru orders Mahendra to use his wealth to manufacture ammunition for the Anandamath.
Jibananda, the most accomplished and loyal disciple of Mahatma Satyananda, and later his wife Shanti, the role played by Soma Sinha, who is the only woman to join the Ashram and fight alongside her brave husband. Her appearance on stage becomes the turning point of the storyline. The joining of Shanti to the Order is very dramatic, who comes in the guise of a man. Shanti alias Nabinananda walks hand in hand with her husband and together reciting and singing “ Vande Mataram”.
Meanwhile, Bhavananda who once rescued Kalyani gets attracted by her beauty and is ready to leave the Order.
At the close of the play, the decisive battle between the British and the Order is depicted. The East India Company attacks Anandamath, Company artillery opens fire inflicting several casualties, including the death of Bhavananda. Focused light falls in succession on the characters to give a glimpse into each of them, and is well-conceived and executed.
The British won the final battle. The story ends with Mahendra being returned back to his village, building a home again. Jibananda is grievously injured in battle. At nightfall, after the battle is over, Shanti discovers the seemingly lifeless body and grieves for him but revives him. They decide to go on a pilgrimage and live as ascetics. Satyananda Maharaj goes to the Himalayas for penances.
In terms of acting Palash Das and Seshadri Mitra satisfy their director’s brief, etching out their respective characters with creditable flair. Soma Sinha as Shanti, who is always quite effective, shows the performative potential of her character’s transformative moment, with her voice through and body projecting the climactic import of each scene. Other supporting characters performed well. It is worthwhile to mention that Debabarta Sarkar and Tushar Chanda played the role of “Captain He “ and singer “Dhirananda “ respectively does their job with brilliance.
Anandamath is an exhilarating and stirring play that will leave one inspired by the bravery of its characters. . The patriotic song of Vande Mataram (I revere thee mother) originated from the pages of this masterpiece, sung by the novel’s idealistic and nationalist saints fighting for their motherland’s freedom.
The play is a well-knit version of a classical novel in Indian Literature, presented by a band of gifted actors, aesthetically executed, heightened by the spectacular presentation alongside skillful utilization of the play’s main hymn “ Vande Mataram” in different Indian ragas and instruments, imbued with the spirit of nationalism and selfless patriotism.