BY MAHADEV DESAI
Photos by Harshad Shah
Atlanta, GA, June 6, 2019: Siddhi Events in New Jersey’s Smita Gandhi and IACA presented a powerful Gujarati drama ‘The Iron Man of India-Sardar Patel’, (with some dialogues in Hindi and English), performed by Vikram Academy of Performing Arts, Ahmedabad, at the IACA auditorium on Saturday May 18, 2019.The presentation was graced by the presence of national promoter Smita Gandhi of Siddhi events, past and present IACA officers, members, sponsors and the media.
The fast-paced and riveting play is written and directed by Dr.Vikram Panchal, founder/head of the Vikram Academy of Performing Arts, Ahmedabad and Shaunak Vyas, a noted TV actor, who plays the dynamic role of Sardar Patel in the play.
The play deals with the illustrious life of India’s iconic fearless barrister, politician. statesman, India’s first Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Sardar Patel, who played a pivotal role in India’s Independence struggle and in integration of 565 princely states (Rajwadas) into a unified India. The play has rousing dialogues, biting humor and quips and touching moments as well.
The play begins with India’s rousing national anthem, ‘Jana Gana Mana’. Sardar Patel arrives in Bardoli to initiate the famous Bardoli Satyagraha in 1928, where he exhorts the farmers to stand up against the British rulers and not pay the unjust land taxes. The victory with non-violent civil disobedience earned him the sobriquet ‘Iron Man of India’. The play then focusses on the tumultuous period from 1946 to 1949. It depicts Sardar’s role, along with Maulana Azad, Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru in dealing with Jinnah and the British Govt.in preventing the partition of India.
But the partition could not be avoided. The play deals with the real reason behind the ‘Divide and rule’ policy of the British Raj and its support of Jinnah in his demand for Pakistan. Sardar Patel played a monumental role in gaining of India’s independence. and in integrating of 565 self-governing princely states into a united independent nation. Though he is the overwhelmingly popular choice of people as India’s first Prime Min.he withdraws his name in favor of Nehru, at the behest of Gandhi, he single-handedly accomplishes the most challenging drive of integrating of 565 self-governing princely states into a united independent nation. Using diplomacy and option and even use of military action, he gets both Nizam of Hyderabad and Nawab of Junagadh (both States with majority Hindu populations) to accede to India. However, Kashmir still remains a problem, because in 1948, Pandit Nehru, despite Sardar’s disapproval, takes the Kashmir issue to the United Nations, advocating a plebiscite and the matter still remains unresolved.
In this fast-paced gripping play, the seasoned thespian Shaunak Vyas(in Gandhi’s role) commands the stage with his powerful delivery of stirring applause-winning patriotic words, and biting quips.
Pandit Nehru (Tapan Jani); Sarojini Naidu (Dr.Rekha Mukherjee); Maharaja Hanwant Singh of Jodhpur (Jash Thakkar); Gandhi Bapu and V.P.Menon (Jay Mehta); M.Jinnah and Razvi (Ankit Gajera); Lord Wavell, Lord Mountbatten and Lord Wilson (Sarthak Vasawada); and Maniben,Lady Wavell (Shivani Bhagat) in supporting roles also give convincing and assured performances. The play ends with a positive, patriotic exhortation to the Indian diaspora to keep Bharat alive in their hearts, to lift Bharat’s image in the world, to proudly assert, “I am a Bharati”, and when they see a Tiranga, to shout loudly with one voice, ‘Jai Hind’.
In a brief interview with the writer, Dr.Vikram Panchal shared that the Vikram Academy of Performing Arts, is an Institution for Dance, Music, Literary Activities and Dramatic Arts, in Ahmedabad and he is its Founder/head with Dr.Rekha Mukherjee. On their third tour from April to June 2019,the Academy has brought four plays to perform in the U.S.; ‘The Iron Man of India-Sardar Patel’; ‘Swami Vivekanand’;’Main Desh Drohi nahi hoon-Godse’,and ‘Selfie’.
The small team of ten actors act in multiple roles and also carry out other parts of the play like sound and lighting ,background music, make-up, period costumes,props.,backdrops,etc.The play which has won many accolades in India and overseas is about two and half hours long with 20 scenes. He said that the Academy prefers to present plays about patriotism and noted figures rather than comedies. He commended the audience here as warm-hearted, discerning and responsive. He and his troupe were very happy to stage the play in Atlanta and would be delighted to return here at a future date.
Shaunak Vyas thanked the audience and introduced the Academy’s performing artists. They have performed 70 shows of the play. This time they have also performed their new play ‘Main desh drohi nahi hoon-Godse’ at two venues.
Smita Gandhi said that she enjoyed watching the play. “Great performance. Thank you for entertaining me and also educating me. It is good to revive our history so we can appreciate what Sardar did for the country. My deep thanks also to Chaitanyabhai and Ani Agnihotri for their help in staging the play in IACA auditorium,” she said.
Gandhi invited IACA’s Executive members Chaitanyabhai and Ani and Sardar Patel Foundation of America’s Founder President Vinodbhai Patel on stage.
Ani thanked Dr.Vikram and Smitaben for presenting an inspiring historic play.” I do not speak Gujarati,but I was totally enamored with Sardar’s incredible role in India’s freedom struggle and thereafter comined with top-notch acting. Pl.bring the movie on your next visit to Atlanta. My thanks to you on behalf of IACA and the sponsors,” he said.
Vinodbhai, the Sardar Patel Foundation’s Founder /President gave a brief history of the Foundation. Lauding Sardar Patel, he said,” Hitler was afraid of Churchill. Churchill was afraid of Gandhi. Gandhi was afraid of God. But Sardar Patel was afraid of only his conscience, because he was a nationalist.”
Chaitanyabhai thanked all the past and present IACA members and sponsors and especially the Sanatan Mandir for the delicious dinner. He also thanked Atlanta’s well-respected, indefatigable arts promoter Mustafa Ajmeri for helping stage the play.