The ‘great’ debate

ByProma Chakraborty

Jul 26, 2019

Historical figures come alive in this play that satirises attempts to settle weighty questions in TV studio debates

In line with their own political ideologies, politicians in India clearly do not shy away from rewriting history to suit their narratives. Sparring over the ‘greatness’ of notable figures from history with dubious claims that stretch to questioning their ‘character’, the current regime surely doesn’t fail to spark off debates.

So, what happens when Akbar’s greatness is questioned? Well, in this theatrical production, he decides to come down to earth and set things right himself.

Pierrot’s Troupe latest satire – ‘Akbar The Great Nahin Rahe’ — couldn’t be more topical. Based in the context of the controversy over the “greatness” of Akbar versus Maharana Pratap that took place about a year ago, and is still continuing, this play gives the entire episode a comical twist.

The play kicks off at a ‘special area’ in heaven — ‘Lutyen’s Swarg’ — meant for kings and emperors whose people call them ‘The Great’. Here Akbar lives with the likes of Ashoka and Alexander, among others.

Mind you, it’s Swarg, not heaven or jannat. “God wanted to avoid any kind of controversy, so before Yogi Adityanath reaches there, he changes the name to Swarg,” says director M Sayeed Alam with a laugh.

News of the questions raised over Akbar’s greatness on earth soon reaches Swarg, and he is asked to vacate the area and make way for Maharana Pratap. Right before he is expelled, Atal Bihari Vajpayee reaches Swarg and quite interestingly asks that Akbar be given a chance to prove himself.

“Despite belonging to that particular section of political thoughts and ideologies which believes that Akbar was not ‘The Great’, Vajpayee states that it is not Rajdharma,” explains Alam.

As Akbar sets out on his mission to reclaim his identity and redeem his name on Earth, he meets Vajpayee. The latter suggests that there is only one gentleman, that too from the world of media, who can help him regain his title.

As it turns out, this gentleman happens to be an anchor of a very famous news channel, who can give back the title to Akbar through his popular debate on prime time. “Nobody else can, not even the current Prime Minister.”

Akbar meets the said gentleman (no points for guessing who) who feels it’s a very good debate for TRP and what follows is absolute madness with no clear result. Set in a news channel studio, the dialogues are rib-tickingly funny as is the spoof on the anchor.

On his way back, Akbar meets Maharana Pratap on the stairway to heaven, who states that despite ‘popular belief’ he has absolutely no interest in getting the title ‘Great’.

With a witty and tongue-in-cheek script written by Mrinal Mathur, this 75-minute play premiered in January and has been performed eight times already.

The play will be staged at LTG Auditorium on August 17