February 27, 1931. Alfred Park. Ambushed by the police, he was wounded in the crossfire defending his revolutionary companions. When they ran out of ammunition, freedom fighter Chandra Shekhar Azad shot himself to avoid being captured by the British. He fulfilled the pledge that he had made. The Raj couldn’t capture him alive. He was 24.
Now think of this situation in the context of the 21st-century. What if Azad could live-stream his final moments? If he could express a million thoughts that ran through his head as he stood at death’s doorstep? This forms the premise of Delhi-based 22-year-old theatre-maker Aditya Tripathi’s performance Azad Live — the first among six performances that will set the ball rolling at Mumbai’s youth theatre festival Thespo’s latest offering, Thespo Tapri: Cheeni Kam, Stories Zyaada.
Sharing the genesis of using the theme of freedom in a digital age, Tripathi explains how it began with a headline. When Bhim Army chief,Chandrashekhar Azad emerged as the face of Dalit empowerment and the leading voice of the youth in the anti-CAA protests, a news headline read ‘Azad breaks free once more’. While I was fully aware that the person being referred to was the Chandrashekhar Azad of today, I couldn’t help but turn back time and think of the slain freedom fighter who sacrificed his life at the age of 24,” he shares.
Revisiting Azad’s life made Tripathi realise how, though celebrated by many for his contribution to the freedom struggle, Azad often got overshadowed by other personalities in the pages of history. “Even freedom fighter Bhagat Singh who became a youth icon looked up to Azad as a mentor. He [Azad] fought the British, and led his own political party. While growing up, every time I thought of freedom fighters, I could only picture senior leaders. But Chandra Shekhar Azad was different. He was like one of us. And so I decided to do a contemporary take on his final moments.”
A previous edition of Thespo
A one-person act, the performance, therefore, relies on minimalism where the story is the true champion. Tripathi adds that the visual and audio elements will work in tandem to make the experience memorable for those in attendance. “The use of the camera in a theatre performance can be unnerving sometimes. But since my story is set in a world where Azad had a phone that becomes the medium of sharing his thoughts, I enjoyed it thoroughly. While rehearsing the piece, I tried to keep the dialogue and text historically accurate. It blew my mind to realise how his ideas are relevant even today. History is repeating itself in front of our eyes; there is suppression of voices, confusion and lack of unity. The context may have changed but the story remains the same,” he adds.
Echoing his thoughts, Anoushka Zaveri from Team Thespo shares, “When we began our hunt for artistes aged under 25 years, we wanted theatre-makers who would embrace the digital medium and take our audience on a journey with an exciting story. And Aditya’s story is one of them.”
She adds that the other acts in the line-up are insightful and heartwarming in equal measure; these stories have been selected from over 100 pieces that came in from more than 10 cities. “We have a mixed bag of themes running through performances — from the story of a young woman’s love affair with theatre to a satire that traces the journey of a self-proclaimed revolutionary. There is also a mime performance where the character’s hands declare war against each other as well as a true story of a woman’s strange encounter with a man on a Delhi bus. This mix of Hindi and English stories will take you along on a journey of joy, heartbreak, struggle, freedom and love,” she shares.
On October 3 and 10, 6 pm
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Cost Rs 150
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