Divyani Rattanpal

Written and Directed : Saheb Nitish
Cast : Saheb Nitish, Eivaan, Shahan Shah, Ankita Dubey, Manisha, Eshita Mehta, Hitesh Bhatiya, Divesh Patil, Amit, Shivam Sharma, Saurabh, Muneer, Abhiraj and Vikram


Stories about the Partition find a powerful medium in theatre. Perhaps it is the cries of helpless men and women reverberating through the hall, which cast an auditory dread for the audience.

Or perhaps it's the stage direction, with its blackouts - which translate to the collective unconscious as live vignettes on the Partition.

Or perhaps it's the intimacy of the actors enacting live - that the horror of the mindless bloodshed sears deeply into the psyche. Whatever it is, the stage, in my opinion, remains the perfect platform to highlight the horrors of India's partition.

Although there have been numerous iconic plays on the Partition, including Asghar Wajahat's Jis Lahore Nahi Dekhiya, the theme continues to inspire young and old theatremakers alike.

The play, KAPAAS KE PHOOL, is one such addition to the already illustrous roster.

Mai Tajo lives with her husband Rahim in an Indian village. She's the most elderly woman in the village, and her husband Rahim is looked upon as a father figure by the whole village community. Chander's daughter, Radha, is very close to Mai and brings her food and lassi everyday.

However, even though the old couple is deeply respected and cared for, they find themselves aching for the support of their three sons - who are employed in the city.

One day, news about the Partition casts a pall of gloom over the entire village.

Overnight, the village community - which has painstakingly built bonds of deep camaraderie - gets divided into two religious sects.

Each side bays for the blood of the opposite side. Friends turn informers and reveal location to rioters.

Politically minded individuals of both sects take advantage of the situation and egg the people to seek revenge. More than avenging, this is done to consolidate their own power.

Chandar, his brother Mahavir, father Raghubir and friend, Tanvir try their best to diffuse the situation but to no avail. The loss of the village patriarch, Rahim Bhai, stands as a metaphor for the loss of wisdom that is seen in the mindless bloodshed that follows.

On the other hand, Mai and the other female protagonist, Radha, represent the helplessness of countless women, who had to face the horror of torture and abuse during this harrowing time in Indian history.

Radha loses her innocence, childhood, joy, hope, dreams - everything; at the hands of the merciless rioters.

Meanwhile, Mai finds herself utterly alone - without her husband and three sons - in having to face perhaps the most terrifying situation of her life. Yet, she boldly handles the situation, keeping her dignity intact. The old matriarch even refuses to leave her beloved village despite being advised to move across the border -which is an act of defiance and courage.

The play explores themes of identity, loss, displacement, and the human cost of political decisions.

By delving into the deeply personal stories of individuals affected by the Partition - KAPAAS KE PHOOL attempts to humanise the historical event.

However, the play lacks nuanced portrayals of characters in exploring different backgrounds and perspectives. In failing to do so, it ends up simplifying the complexity of the situation.

The stage design incorporates elements of culture, tradition, and language to capture the essence of pre-partition India. Additionally, the staging and direction are done intelligently, although the pace seems to be dragging at many occasions.

Now, coming to the performances which play a crucial role in bringing the story to life and connecting with the audience emotionally. The character of Mai Tajo is performed with painstaking detailing by Ankita Dubey. The rest of the cast shine bright in the emotional scenes, especially Eshita Mehta and Hitesh Bhatia. However, the dread of the Partition fails to translate with utmost efficiency on the stage. A visual medium like photography immortalised the dread of the Gujarat Riots with the image of Qutubuddin Ansari pleading for mercy. Then, why can't the live medium of theatre produce a more riveting vignette of the horror of Partition?

Today, as we sit in the 77th year of Independence, we must look at the centennial of the Partition, which is not too far away. We need even more well-executed productions that would leave a lasting impact for the future generation, prompting reflection and discussion about the legacy of Partition.

That is why, even though KAPAAS KE PHOOL has beautiful intentions in showing the importance of brotherhood, peace and unity, its emotional impact needs to be amplified in further experiments even more.

*Divyani has worked as a journalist for The Quint, where she was also among the Founding Team members. While there, she also hosted and produced a podcast and fronted several standups. She's also worked for The Times of India group. She's now a theatre and film actor.

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