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90 minutes for Gandhi
Published on Saturday, 29 August 2009

90 minutes for Gandhi are not enough! I can say that for sure after seeing this adaptation of Sammy! - one of the finest historical Indian plays, which in 2006 received a clutch of awards for best script, best director and best actor. This Fringe version is presented at Riddles Court by an experienced local amateur theatre group.

The fascinating story of the man Gandhi, who turned into Mahatma (a saint), is inseparable from the independence struggles of India. As the play postulates, his exemplary behaviour and visionary ideas, which gradually form the philosophical basis of a political doctrine – Satyagraha, or non-violent resistance – are to cause national change.

Partap Sharma’s original script, abridged and seen through the eyes of director Pranay Ahluwalia, came across as a fairy tale in which actors and characters walk side by side - pondering over the aesthetical shape of the play, before choosing to follow spontaneity.

The adapted story follows closely the original, not only in its narrative structure but also in the mise-en-scene, and, to a great extent, in the choice of actors. However, the biggest surprise was the leading actor, whose commanding figure was somehow at odds with the image of Gandhi in the play. In abridging the original, most of the moments picked by the director showed the historical events in good detail, but Gandhi’s personal development was not well revealed.

Still, the choreographer (Akshay Khanna) deserves congratulation, together with the excellent acting of Payal Debroy (Mahatma), Arshya Lakshman (Viceroy), and Pryiance Singh (Sarojini Naidu). The director’s decision to give a modern reading to this period of human history leads to a delightful but insufficient 90 minutes for Gandhi.

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