theatre of war

On stage in Maharashtra, Nathuram Godse is seeing a revival

As a new play comes under attack for glorifying Gandhi’s assassin, an older version is threatening to make a comeback.

Nearly 30 years ago, in 1989, Pradip Dalvi’s Marathi play Me Nathuram Godse Boltoy opened to a maelstrom of controversy in Maharashtra. The two-act play told the story of Mohandas Gandhi’s assassination from the perspective of his killer, Nathuram Godse, resulting in an outcry and a ban on its performance for the next four years. That piece of theatre is making a comeback, after the appearance of a new play that has also been accused of glorifying Godse.

The new play, titled Hey Ram...Nathuram, was first staged on October 2, on Gandhi’s birth anniversary. It has much in common with Me Nathuram Godse Boltoy, beginning with actor Sharad Ponkshe, who has played the titular character of Godse in both plays. Ponkshe wrote and directed Hey Ram...Nathuram, following disagreements with the producers of Me Nathuram Godse Boltoy.

Since the first staging of his new play, Ponkshe has been at the receiving end of attacks from two sides.

On the one hand, Uday Dhurat, the producer of the older Godse play, has accused Ponkshe of copying the premise of the original – Dhurat now intends to revive Me Nathuram Godse Boltoy with new actors. On the other hand, in the week running up to Gandhi’s death anniversary on January 30, Ponkshe’s Hey Ram...Nathuram faced angry protests outside theatres in Sangli, Aurangabad, Thane, Nagpur and Pune, by local representatives of the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party and the Sambhaji Brigade, a Maratha vigilante group affiliated with NCP. On January 24, in Nagpur, some protesters were detained by the police, as a show of Hey Ram...Nathuram was cancelled.

According to the protesters, the play glorifies Gandhi’s assassin and ought to be banned. While critics don’t endorse a ban, they do believe that Ponkshe’s play is an obvious and worrying reiteration of the Hindutva ideology that led to Gandhi’s death in 1948.

Sharad Ponkshe. Credit: YouTube
Sharad Ponkshe. Credit: YouTube

‘Non-violence not the only way’

Ponkshe has refuted the allegation that his play – which Sambhaji Brigade calls “seditious” – glorifies Godse. Scroll.in was unable to reach Ponkshe, but in an interview with Marathi news channel TV9 in October, the actor-director claimed that his purpose of revisiting and revising the original Me Nathuram Godse Boltoy was to showcase the “truth” of Godse’s character without any glorification.

In the same interview, however, Ponkshe – the vice president of the Shiv Sena’s cinema wing – expressed an attraction towards some of Godse’s thinking. “He [Godse] was trying to say that non-violence is not the only successful way forward,” Ponkshe had said. “In these 70 years of being a non-violent country, even a nation like Pakistan has been able to attack us so many times. But recently when we responded with just one violent attack, the situation changed almost immediately.”

‘Assassination as vadh’

For many liberal critics, this line of thinking is not surprising, just as it wasn’t surprising when Ponkshe essayed the role of Godse in Pradip Dalvi’s older play for 14 years. “These plays bring out the fact that the Hindutva of old is no different from Hindutva today, which still persists in our midst and is in power,” said Anand Patwardhan, a documentary filmmaker whose 2002 film War and Peace closely looked at the impact of plays like Me Nathuram Godse Boltoy.

Right-wing Hindutva history, according to theatre critic Shanta Gokhale, has always seen Godse as a hero and Gandhi as someone who deserved to be assassinated. “They refer to the assassination as vadh,” said Gokhale. “In our myths, when heroes kill villains, the deed is called vadh.”

Playwright Ramu Ramanathan believes this glorification of Godse has grown more intense in the past two decades. “The BJP top leadership pays lip service to Gandhi and [Bhimrao] Ambedkar,” said Ramanathan. “But if you pay heed to the ideologues and their founders in the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh], the message is clear.”

Godse, a Brahmin from Maharashtra, was a member of the right-wing Hindu Mahasabha that also spawned the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. As Gokhale points out, Ponkshe was a member of the RSS until some years ago, when he quit and joined the Shiv Sena. While the Shiv Sena and the BJP lead a coalition government in Maharashtra, the Sena has announced a split with the BJP in the run-up to the Mumbai’s civic corporation polls. This, according to Gokhale, explains the Shiv Sena’s rousing support for Ponkshe’s play across Maharashtra.

“Although reconstructing/distorting history is not one of the Sena’s known objectives, it would be perfectly happy to go along with Ponkshe’s version of it, since he is now one of them,” said Gokhale. “Even more significantly, in today’s politics in Maharashtra, Ponkshe is against the organisation [RSS] that supports the BJP, which is Sena’s rival.”

A new Godse will rise?

Ponkshe’s new Godse play is currently touring parts of Maharashtra and is expected to be staged in Mumbai in the first week of February. Meanwhile, Uday Dhurat, the producer of the original Me Nathuram Godse Boltoy, is preparing to revive the old play, which hasn’t been staged since 2011.

“After playing a character for 14 years, it is sad that Ponkshe has chosen to trample on the work of the original playwright and do another play on the same subject,” said Dhurat. “But we are auditioning new actors and directors to bring our play back. A new Nathuram will rise again. We all love and respect Gandhi, but people need to know the other side of the story.”

While Patwardhan is convinced that the renewed presence of the Godse character on stage will be damaging to the social fabric, he believes the world of secular artistes has not responded adequately to counter this right-wing narrative of history. “But it is good if all of these attitudes come out in the open,” he said. “People should know that right-wing parties even today are in favour of those who killed Gandhi. Hopefully it will lead to some cultural resistance.”

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Top picks, best deals and all that you need to know for the Amazon Great Indian Festival

We’ve done the hard work so you can get right to what you want amongst the 40,000+ offers across 4 days.

The Great Indian Festival (21st-24th September) by Amazon is back and it’s more tempting than ever. This edition will cater to everyone, with offers on a range of products from electronics, home appliances, apparel for men and women, personal care, toys, pet products, gourmet foods, gardening accessories and more. With such overwhelming choice of products and a dozen types of offers, it’s not the easiest to find the best deals in time to buy before your find gets sold out. You need a strategy to make sure you avail the best deals. Here’s your guide on how to make the most out of the Great Indian Festival:

Make use of the Amazon trio – Amazon Prime, Amazon Pay and Amazon app

Though the festival officially starts on 21st, Amazon Prime members will have early access starting at 12 noon on 20th September itself, enabling them to grab the best deals first. Sign up for an Amazon Prime account to not miss out on exclusive deals and products. Throughout the festival, Prime members will 30-minute early access to top deals before non-Prime members. At Rs 499/- a year, the Prime membership also brings unlimited Amazon Prime video streaming and quick delivery benefits.

Load your Amazon pay wallet; there’s assured 10% cashback (up to Rs 500). Amazon will also offer incremental cashbacks over and above bank cashbacks on select brands as a part of its Amazon Pay Offers. Shopping from the app would bring to you a whole world of benefits not available to non-app shoppers. App-only deals include flat Rs 1,250 off on hotels on shopping for more than Rs 500, and flat Rs 1,000 off on flights on a roundtrip booking of Rs 5,000 booking from Yatra. Ten lucky shoppers can also win one year of free travel worth Rs 1.5 lakhs.

Plan your shopping

The Great Indian Sale has a wide range of products, offers, flash sales and lightning deals. To make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals, or lose your mind, plan first. Make a list of things you really need or have been putting off buying. If you plan to buy electronics or appliances, do your research on the specs and shortlist the models or features you prefer. Even better, add them to your wishlist so you’re better able to track your preferred products.

Track the deals

There will be lightning deals and golden hour deals throughout the festival period. Keep track to avail the best of them. Golden-hour deals will be active on the Amazon app from 9.00pm-12.00am, while Prime users will have access to exclusive lightning deals. For example, Prime-only flash sales for Redmi 4 will start at 2.00pm and Redmi 4A at 6.00pm on 20th, while Nokia 6 will be available at Rs 1,000 off. There will be BOGO Offers (Buy One Get One free) and Bundle Offers (helping customers convert their TVs to Smart TVs at a fraction of the cost by using Fire TV Stick). Expect exclusive product launches from brands like Xiaomi (Mi Band 2 HRX 32 GB), HP (HP Sprocket Printer) and other launches from Samsung and Apple. The Half-Price Electronics Store (minimum 50% off) and stores offering minimum Rs 15,000 off will allow deal seekers to discover the top discounts.

Big discounts and top picks

The Great Indian Festival is especially a bonanza for those looking to buy electronics and home appliances. Consumers can enjoy a minimum of 25% off on washing machines, 20% off on refrigerators and 20% off on microwaves, besides deals on other appliances. Expect up to 40% off on TVs, along with No-Cost EMI and up to Rs 20,000 off on exchange.

Home Appliances

Our top picks for washing machines are Haier 5.8 Kg Fully Automatic Top Loading at 32% off, and Bosch Fully Automatic Front Loading 6 Kg and 7 Kg, both available at 27% discount. Morphy Richards 20 L Microwave Oven will be available at a discount of 38%.

Our favorite pick on refrigerators is the large-sized Samsung 545 L at 26% off so you can save Rs 22,710.

There are big savings to be made on UV water purifiers as well (up to 35% off), while several 5-star ACs from big brands will be available at greater than 30% discount. Our top pick is the Carrier 1.5 Ton 5-star split AC at 32% off.

Also those looking to upgrade their TV to a smart one can get Rs. 20,000 off by exchanging it for the Sony Bravia 108cm Android TV.

Personal Electronics

There’s good news for Apple fans. The Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch Laptop 2017 will be available at Rs 55,990, while the iPad will be available at 20% off. Laptops from Lenovo, Dell and HP will be available in the discount range of 20% to 26%. Top deals are Lenovo Tab3 and Yoga Tab at 41% to 38% off. Apple fans wishing to upgrade to the latest in wearable technology can enjoy Rs 8,000 off on the Apple Watch series 2 smartwatch. For those of you just looking for a high quality fitness tracker, the Fitbit Charge has Rs. 4500 off on 22nd September.

If you’re looking for mobile phones, our top deal pick is the LG V20 at Rs 24,999, more than Rs 5000 off from its pre-sale price.

Power banks always come in handy. Check out the Lenovo 13000 mAh power bank at 30% off.

Home printers are a good investment for frequent flyers and those with kids at home. The discounted prices of home printers at the festival means you will never worry about boarding passes and ID documents again. The HP Deskjet basic printer will be available for Rs 1,579 at 40% off and multi-function (printer/ scanner/ Wi-Fi enabled) printers from HP Deskjet and Canon will also available at 33% off.

The sale is a great time to buy Amazon’s native products. Kindle E-readers and Fire TV Stick will be on sale with offers worth Rs 5,000 and Rs 1,000 respectively.

The Amazon Fire Stick
The Amazon Fire Stick

For those of you who have a bottomless collection of movies, music and photos, there is up to 60% off on hard drives and other storage devices. Our top picks are Rs 15,000 and Rs 12,000 off on Seagate Slim 5TB and 4TB hard drives respectively, available from 8.00am to 4.00pm on 21st September.

The sale will see great discounts of up to 60% off on headphones and speakers from the top brands. The 40% off on Bose QC 25 Headphones is our favourite. Top deals are on Logitech speakers with Logitech Z506 Surround Sound 5.1 multimedia Speakers at 60% off and the super compact JBL Go Portable Speaker at 56% off!

Other noteworthy deals

Cameras (up to 55% off) and camera accessories such as tripods, flash lights etc. are available at a good discount. Home surveillance cameras too will be cheaper. These include bullet cameras, dome cameras, simulated cameras, spy cameras and trail and game cameras.

For home medical supplies and equipment, keep an eye on the grooming and personal care section. Weighing scales, blood pressure monitors, glucometers, body fat monitors etc. will be available at a cheaper price.

The sale is also a good time to invest in home and kitchen supplies. Mixer-grinders and juicers could see lightning deals. Don’t ignore essentials like floor mops with wheels, rotating mop replacements, utensils, crockery etc. Tupperware sets, for example, will be more affordable. There are attractive discounts on bags, especially laptop bags, backpacks, diaper bags and luggage carriers.

Interesting finds

While Amazon is extremely convenient for need-based shopping and daily essentials, it is also full of hidden treasures. During the festival, you can find deals on telescopes, polaroid cameras, smoothie makers, gym equipment, gaming consoles and more. So you’ll be able to allow yourself some indulgences!

Small shopping

If you have children, the festival is good time to stock up on gifts for Diwali, Christmas, return gifts etc. On offer are gaming gadgets such as Xbox, dough sets, Touching Tom Cat, Barbies, classic board games such as Life and more. There are also some products that you don’t really need, but kind of do too, such as smartphone and tablet holders, magnetic car mounts for smartphones and mobile charging station wall stands. If you’re looking for enhanced functionality in daily life, do take a look at the Amazon Basics page. On it you’ll find USB cables, kitchen shears, HDMI cables, notebooks, travel cases and other useful things you don’t realise you need.

Check-out process and payment options

Amazon is also offering an entire ecosystem to make shopping more convenient and hassle-free. For the festival duration, Amazon is offering No-Cost EMIs (zero interest EMIs) on consumer durables, appliances and smartphones, plus exchange schemes and easy installation services in 65 cities. HDFC card holders can avail additional 10% cashback on HDFC credit and debit cards. Customers will also get to “Buy Now and Pay in 2018” with HDFC Credit Cards, as the bank offers a 3 Month EMI Holiday during the days of the sale. Use Amazon Pay balance for fast and easy checkouts, quicker refunds and a secured shopping experience.

Sales are fun and with The Great Indian Festival offering big deals on big brands, it definitely calls for at least window shopping. There’s so much more than the above categories, like minimum 50% off on American Tourister luggage! To start the treasure hunt, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Amazon.in and not by the Scroll editorial team.