History, explained

Rohan Ambike
Friday, 3 August 2018

Director, actor Digpal Lanjekar tells us about his play Challenge, based on the friendship of Madanlal Dhingra and Veer Savarkar

On Sunday, watch a Marathi play that is based on the friendship of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and Madanlal Dhingra. You won’t find details of their friendship and the values they shared and believed in, in history textbooks. Digpal Lanjekar, who plays Dhingra in the drama, says, “History was my favourite subject and the lives of all the great personalities, who played a big role, in our country’s history, has made a deep impact on my mind.” The role of Savarkar has been played by Nikhil Raut. Lanjekar gives us more details... 

What prompted you to take up this subject?
History was my favourite subject and that’s why I read a lot of books on Indian history. It was then that I came across the book Pralayatil Pimpal Pane penned by VS Joshi. It was a book on three revolutionaries — Chapekar brothers, Madanlal Dhingra and Sardar Udham Singh. I was fascinated with the part of Rudravtar Madanlal based on Dhingra. It was so because the entire journey of Dhingra is similar to the youth of today.

Dhingra was in search of himself and had questions about what he was going to do with his life. He wanted to contribute to the freedom struggle of India, but was not able to find the right way. All these questions were answered when he came in contact with Veer Savarkar at India House in London.

Period plays need a lot of research. What was the background work you did to prepare the script of the play?
As I said earlier, Pralayatil Pimpal Pane was an inspiration and also a reference material for me. However, I got to know the real Dhingra when I read his diary. Documentary filmmaker Prem Vaidya was a great help in the entire process. Vaidya had worked on the making of a documentary on Veer Savarkar. 

We had a lot of sittings, readings and research which included interacting with Vaidya sir and other experts. After that the script was ready. The title Challenge is derived from the title of the statement Dhingra read in court. It was an open challenge to the British rulers in India. 

Which characteristics of Savarkar and Dhingra have inspired you?
Savarkar is like a vast ocean. Words fall short when you talk about this great man. He was not just a freedom fighter or a revolutionary or a thinker. He was a visionary and a man with tremendous foresight. The moment Savarkar stepped on Andaman, instead of cursing the place, he said, ‘Andaman is the future Naval base of India’. His few other statements and observations about India have been proved right. 

When I read the diary entries written by Dhingra, I learnt that he was a very emotional man. He was a fearless youth who has swayed to both the extremes of life like a pendulum. He was someone who liked to listen to the speeches of the Arya Samaj gurus and also enjoyed the Western lifestyle. He was handsome and a very good ball room dancer and shooter. 

There was a time when everyone, except Savarkar, doubted Dhingra and even considered him to be a spy planted by the British. In his own words, Dhingra was in search of ‘parmanand’ which he attained after coming in contact with Savarkar and fellow revolutionaries. 

Dhingra was a person with sharp intellect. At the age of 24, in 1909, he had cleared his Civil Engineering exam with highest marks that had earned him a gold medal. The next day he shot dead Curzon Wiley. This sway of thoughts is very catchy. 

You have resorted to voluntary funding for the play. How has it helped you financially and with the publicity?
Till date, there have been more than 45 performances of Challenge. Initially, we had a repeat audience. But we wanted to reach out to the maximum people in Maharashtra, so we thought of coming up with voluntary funding from the audience. We issued passes to them, and asked them to donate the sum as per their wish after watching the performance. Most of our shows ran housefull. 

How do you plan to reach out more to people?
There are plans to take this play to schools and make the school going children aware of Dhingra. There are some associations who have invited us and we will be staging our performances at such venues. 

ST Reader Service 
Catch the play, Challenge on Sunday, 12.30 pm at Yashwantrao Chavan Natyagruha, Kothrud

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