New Delhi: There is hardly any part of Mahatma Gandhi`s life that hasn`t been dissected by historians or hasn`t been written about. So when veteran theatre director Bhanu Bharti chose to bring the last, lonely days of the life of the apostle of non-violence on stage with his new play ‘Bapu’, one wondered what new aspect he would be playing with.
The hour-long monologue transported the audience to 1946 when the Cabinet Mission was formed to discuss and plan the transfer of power from the British government to the Indian leadership. And it was the same time when Gandhi first faced alienation from his close aides and Congress leaders Jawaharlal Nehru and Abdul Kalam Azad.
Perfectly essaying the role of Gandhi is TV personality and theatre actor Sunit Tandon, whose lanky and lean structure, clad in a crisp white dhoti and a duppata was fine-tuned by excellent make-up.
The look connected with the audience and so did his absorbed acting.
As the play began, a pained Gandhi (Tandon) expressed his displeasure over the Congress not consulting him while going ahead with the Cabinet Mission talks.
"People ask me about the wounds and cracks on my feet but what about those wounds that have been inflicted in my soul?" he asked disappointed.
It is a known fact that Gandhi never favoured Partition and that his rules of non-violence and ahimsa were not followed by the Congress leaders, who along with the All India Muslim League, were busy charting a road map for freedom.
As an independent and also unified India was difficult to achieve - something Gandhi desired - Muhammad Ali Jinnah`s Muslim League had already envisioned a safe haven, Pakistan, for Muslims.
"Why have you started to hide a lot of things from me," Gandhi asks Maulana Azad in the play.
"I could see the seeds of Partition in the Cabinet Mission meetings, yet you Maulana, wrote to them secretly," he asked, adding that it was "my failure I couldn`t arouse the feeling of truth in you people".
As the play moves on, the conversation shifts to Nehru and Gandhi also questions his commitment to non-violence and truth. And as all of Gandhi`s fears came true with India`s division into two nations, the "father of the nation" felt betrayed by his "own" people.
"You went against me, and thought I was stoic," he said.
"All the League was bothered about was Muslims, but wasn`t it a duty of Congress to support own people, own Hindus and own Muslims," he questioned.
With all these contemplations in lonely, weak and angry moments, the play highlights the personal struggles of Gandhi who spent his last days in utter loneliness.
It turned out to be a window of pent up emotions about what he felt angry about, and how he wished the virtues of truth and non-violence were followed during Partition. These are what form important ingredients of the play.
Unfortunately, the slow pace tends to distract the audience.