by Deepanshu Srivastava
While going through a graduation course in ‘History Of Maharashtra’, I found a passing reference to historian Baba Saheb Purandare. Later I got an opportunity to watch the stage play – ” Janataraja ” written and conceptualized by Babasaheb in a Pune’s open theatre. The show was performed by over 300 artists and there were elephants and horses in the playmaking it is comparable to a blockbuster Bollywood movie of today. Such a large number of actors and the presence of animals brought back history to life. The three – hour mega – play revolves around the life and times of the Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj (a 17th century Maratha king). It was announced during the play that its first show was staged in April 1984, the show has about 1550 editions across the country including the states of Uttar Pradesh and Punjab where its maximum number of shows were staged apart from Maharashtra and also in the USA. I found the show to be a mesmerizing one that brought the 17th century alive on the stage. I was amazed to notice that even without having any formal training in – ” Theatrical Art “, Baba Saheb had produced his show with grand production – design as well as sound – design inculcated in it. The gorgeousness of production and sound -designs have made the mega show a renowned one and should be a precious heritage for the students of drama and film-making. The grandness in its production -value and my training in Script Writing at FTII, Pune stimulated me to know more about the play as well as about Babasaheb’s works. I also noticed that the inspiration for making Janataraja came to him when he watched Roman ballets in open theatres and novelist Agatha Christie’s play – “The Mousetrap”.
Apart from being a theatre personality of eminence, I found Babasaheb to be a prolific writer and he had mastery in oratory. He dedicated his whole life in the study and penning down the life and times of Shivaji Maharaj. In fact, the mission of his life was to bring Shivaji’s life and the way of administering for the knowledge of younger generations. Apart from his number of books, his two-part book – ” Raja Shivchhatrapati ” is a masterpiece and has sixteen editions, and approximately its five lakh copies have been sold out. His earlier writings which were in scattered forms have been compiled and published in the book – “Thinagya” (which means – ‘ sparks’). His other works include the books entitled “Kesari”, “Lal Mahal”, “Savitri”, “Phulwanti” etc and a book on the life of Peshwa Narayanrao, the king from Peshwa’s lineage who was killed in Pune’s Shaniwarwada at a very young age shifting the center of power from Sinhagad, Pune to Kolhapur.
Besides, Babasaheb was a fine orator who used to deliver extempore lectures on the Maratha king in which he used to capture the imagination of his audience. He did not stop his passion for lecturing on – “Shiv Charitra” and kept on holding his lecture series even when he attained the age of 75.
His works which include books authored by him and the lecture series can, at the best, be examined critically by historians and other authorities but they have made Shivaji’s life and times significant and live for the present-day youngsters. Our tribute to the versatile playwright, prolific writer, and excellent orator Padma Vibhushan and Maharashtra Bhusan Babasaheb Purandare (99).
About the Author:
An interpretative journalist by profession, Deepanshu Srivastava is a sports and fiction writer from Pune. He may be reached at [email protected].