Anupama Chandrasekhar presents a heady dose of Indian history through ‘The Father and the Assassin’, a theatrical performance told through the eyes of Mohandas Karamchand Ghandi’ s assassin.
Staged at the National Theatre, the production follows a myriad of events that lead up to the Indian Independence from a perspective that many will find a tough pill to swallow – worth throwing into the mix though.
It opens with central character, Nathuram Godse, played by an incredibly talented Shubham Shraf, who rises from beneath the stage covered in the blood of Paul Bazeley’s Ghandi, to address the audience saying, ‘what are you all looking at?’
Instant comadarie sets the tone for the rest of the performance.
The narrative begins with Godse in the 1920’s, a young boy of six born to superstitious and religious parents who, after the loss of three baby sons, force their only son, Godse, to live as a girl in order to avoid the curse of the goddess Durga.
We watch how Godse transports between his role as child and adult narrator, interacting childlike antics seamlessly with equally talented cast members (having spitting competitions no less), to the serious, witty and slightly unhinged adult Godse, who narrates us through the production.
As Godse gets older and gains more awareness of self, he rebels against his parents and refuses to continue as their puppet delivering messages from Durga, to those gullible enough to trade money and food for a glimpse into the future – we were told to turn off our British scepticism before we saw this part.
Shortly after, he has his first meeting with a peacefully campaigning Gandhi, who offers Godse enlightenment and helps him to discover his masculinity, by literally telling him that he’s a boy… not sure if that part is real, but the symbolism isn’t lost.
Enter an empowered and enthralled young Godse who, clearly working through some serious emotional trauma, resigns himself firmly on the side of Ghandi’s pacifist movement to secure independence for India from British Rule.
Godse grows into a fairly ‘beige’ young man, working as an apprentice in tailor shop he is plodding his way though life, searching for something that will make him feel as special as when he was delivering messages from Durga for mangos.
Enter Vinayak Savarkar, executed brilliantly by Sagar Arya. Brash, bold, and undeniably uncle-like, he delivers radicalising speeches to an all too eager Godse who, having already witnessed the wrath of the British Raj, embraces his role as Savarker’s foot soldier on the rising Hindu-nation movement.
Dramatic scenes ensue with Godse becoming more manic in his demeanour as the big moment approaches.
Heated discussions with politicians in meeting rooms, make up the most part of voicing the heavy divide between sides, with a gentle Gandhi moving between to act the mediator with his secular approach.
Violence is mildly there, but present through a more a dramatised contemporary approach – the artful dropping of drapes, moments frozen in time, sustained choreographed falls. Actually come to think of it, I think the only blood ‘shed’ that we see is on Godse at the very beginning.
Director, Indhu Rubasingham, guides the audience beautifully through this very different, but cleverly executed perspective. Hats off to the talented cast delivering a clean performance of one of the bloodiest moments in Indian history. Borderline comedy stand-up delivering punchlines with the punches. Well worth a watch and about bloody time!
Playing in the National Theatre until Saturday 18 June: nationaltheatre.org.uk