Indian cinema has paid tribute to the freedom fighter Bhagat Singh several times by making films like The Legend of Bhagat Singh or mentioning his struggle in the super-hit Rang Day Basanti, but now it’s Pakistan’s turn to acknowledge his struggle against the British Raj.
Keeping with its tradition of doing meaningful productions, Ajoka Theatre is all set to stage its new play Mera Rang Day Basanti Chola which is based on the life and struggle of Bhagat Singh, one of the most influential revolutionary leaders of the independence movement.
This tribute to the great son of Punjab is also yet another play attempting to correct historical distortions, and celebrate our rich and proud heritage. The story of the play does not end with the execution of Bhagat Singh and his comrades on March 23, 1931. “The story of this fearless 23-year-old revolutionary freedom fighter gets intertwined with other stories of struggle between defenders of freedom and justice and the forces of darkness and oppression,” Ajoka Theatre’s Creative Director Madeeha Gauhar told The Express Tribune, while speaking about the play.
“Bhagat Singh was born in Lyallpur but had a special association with Lahore. He studied at the National College, set up by Lala Lajpat Roy at Bradlaugh Hall, Lahore. He started his radical politics from here, by setting up the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA). He was imprisoned here at Central Jail Lahore, and was later executed here. We should acknowledge him as a freedom fighter. He isn’t Indian or Pakistan, but a freedom fighter. The play will be staged in Lahore, the city where Singh spent much of his time,” she said.
The rehearsals for the play are being held at Alhamra these days. When asked about the costumes, Gauhar replied: “We are working on them. The dresses used in the 1930s were not like the dresses of Mughal era, and we will show this on stage. This play is not a colorful production, but has a lot of music and songs including folk songs.”
The format of the play will be such, that a narrator will tell the story of Singh while the actions will be shown in flashbacks. “The musical score makes use of amazing poetic tributes to the great martyr, including songs sung by the revolutionary trio at the time of their hanging and the Lahori tongawala’s ‘Ghori’, which he recited on his tonga on the first anniversary of Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom,” Gauhar added.
The role of the Bhagat Singh will be played by Nirwan Nadeem. Sarfaraz Ansari will also pay an important role. The play is in Punjabi and will have several historical references.
“The play will reveal links between the past and the future, and speak about the spirit of Bhagat Singh which lives on. His last words were ‘Inqilaab Zindabad’. These words still resound in the air of Lahore, we can feel his presence and seek inspiration from the way he lived and died,” Gauhar said.
The play is written by Shahid Nadeem, and directed by Madeeha Gauhar. It will be staged at Alhamra from May 18-20.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 13th, 2011.