Here is my take on the on the recent performance of Kadak Badshahi that I witnessed in Ahmedabad...
For someone who grew up in this glorious city of Ahmedabad and moved out at the prime of the youth, without knowing what this city is all about or the so intriguing history of how the city came into existence the play Kadak Badshahi was a perfect eye-opener and an echo to most of my questions and qualms about the present situation of the city.
The experience of the play starts the moment you step into the gates of the venue and walk towards the amphitheater. There are small floats and stalls that are a live experience of the joys we Amdavadis enjoy on a regular basis and have started taking for granted… be it the food, the garba, the colors and the explosions of experiences. I for once was completely speechless and mesmerized with the experience here and the play hadn’t even started.
I will try not to share the spoilers as the play is an experience in totality and I don’t want to spoil it for you by telling you everything about it, yet I will give you enough enticement of why you don’t want to miss it for anything.
The play starts with the history of Ahmedabad, the famous story of the rabbits getting together and winning over the wild dogs… there are multiple audio-visual treats all over the venue going on and you as a spectator will not want to blink your eyes worrying that you might miss out on some of the grandeur of the performances on the stage and the “screens”
The cast of the play was almost 50 if not more, and I shouldn’t be calling it a play, it is more of a performance or a treat to your audio visual senses. The performance very easily and convincingly blends the history of some of the very famous monuments of the city, and how they got their names or why some of the things that happen there that are happening and you forgot to notice.
There are also very subtle yet strong digs taken on the government and the administration from the Amdavadis’ perspective that the performers have portrayed very candidly yet with perfect conviction. Most of the audience will remember the stories of the famous foods and drinks that we are so used to in Ahmedabad, but the performance also pointedly asks and probes you as an Amdavadi to think what is happening to your city.
The multiple times of the cast asking us the audience, “what the city was and what did you do to it?” was an echo to my feelings and frustration that I have experienced as a ‘returning’ Amdavadi. For the past decade, I have visited this city as a ‘guest’ live here for a week and fly back to my base… this time, I was here for over 3 months, and at every step on the way I asked myself why? What the F@#& happened to the city I left a decade ago? This time I roamed on the roads and experienced this city as a part of the population.
There are many parts in the performance that will completely move you and bring you to tears when they talk about the goings on of the city and the historical significance of it all… be it the story of the Kankaria lake, or the Ellis bridge, or the story of a flower vendor selling her wares on a carpet on the roads outside the Bhadrakali temple.
The performers keep reminding us how the gardens, and forests gave way to the concrete jungle over these years and how the normal Amdavadi has become apathetic, money minded and worried about only one thing “what is in it for me?” there is also a very emphatic statement that lingers in your head well after you walk out, the rough translation of it is “Lakshmi doesn’t mean money, it means prosperity”
The finale of the performance is one of the best I have seen in my life, a glorious celebration of the foods, drinks and everything of Ahmedabad, the audience are so involved in this that they are thrilled when someone hands out gotas and vadas during the performance… guess I have told too much about it already.
Bottom line is that if you are an Amdavadi, or curious about Ahmedabad or someone who has lived here even for a few months… you MUST watch this play and relive your experience of the great city of Ahmedabad. My kudos to the never ageing and every graceful Mallika Sarabhai who not only is part of the performance but also directed the play with Yadavan Chandran and Nisarg Trivedi. You all have created history, let me rephrase, you have recreated history.