Rani Lakshmi Bai takes centrestage in Theatre Nisha’s newest play
Strong or weak, a devi or mortal, women have been the topic of discussion for a while now. And though V Balakrishnan of Theatre Nisha states that he didn’t pen his new play with these debates in mind, we can’t help but think how the theme of his latest, on the Rani of Jhansi, is just right for the current milieu. “Gallantly Fought the Queen is my eighth one-woman play, and not all of my characters have been strong women (like Mata Hari),” begins the director. “But they are all women who lived their lives on their own terms, which is what I want to highlight,” he elaborates. To be staged this weekend, Rani Lakshmi Bai will be played by Meera Sitaraman.
As always, Balakrishnan’s research is impeccable. “There is a lot of literature on her, but much of it borders on fiction — from comics to books for kids,” he shares. The play begins in 1853, when Lord Dalhousie evokes the doctrine of lapse to take her kingdom away, and then follows the four big battles — of Orcha, Jhansi, Kalpi and Gwalior, where she became the rallying point for those seeking freedom. For Sitaraman, the role was a challenge. But, at the end of the day, she says it’s just a young woman defining what is best for her, her son and her kingdom. “I can’t get into her shoes, but no matter what the era, the most basic human conflicts are the same,” says the actress.
April 8 (7.30 pm) and April 9 (3.30 and 7.30 pm), at Ranga Shankara. Tickets (Rs 200) on bookmyshow.com
—Surya Praphulla Kumar