The life of the Tiger

As a means of commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Bangalore Little Theatre — in association with Ganjam — recently performed ‘Tiger! Tiger!’, a play on the life of Tipu Sultan. What was unique was that it was performed at the Bangalore Fort, the warrior-king’s summer palace during his reign.

A still from the play.

Part of the ‘Tiger Comes to Town’ public history project, it was an attempt at letting Bangalore connect with its own history. “It was a site-specific event to recreate a period of history. Through this play, we wanted to trace the connection of human history,” informs Indira Chowdhury, from the Centre for Public History.

Set against the backdrop of the turbulent 18th century, the play reconstructed a series of interlinked sequences involving both individuals and incidents that played a prominent role in the life of the Tiger of Mysore. The audience sat under the moonlit sky, watching with great anticipation as the deception and conspiracies unmasked themselves; as the young boy — whose childhood was spent hearing mystic lore — was forced to pick up the sword and defend his people against the British presence in the Deccan.

“It was good because it interpreted and showed Tipu’s life in a very modern way. I liked how the battles, which he had to carry within himself, were brought out,” shares Murugan, who found the play to be very powerful.

The acting, costumes and sets proved effective, but it was the script, written by the Late Dina Mehta, that stole the show. There were quite a few powerful lines that stayed in the mind long after the play. ‘The difference between a man and a man is as indistinct as the colour of their blood. Who then is my enemy?’ for instance, embodies the inner turmoil faced by Tipu.

Interestingly, the Britishers’ perspective was also depicted, with the accents sounding believable.

The well-crafted strategies they used to turn Indians against each other were brought out well in the plot too. 

While the play was much appreciated by all, the fact that it was actually performed in a historical site did not fail to impress.

   “The location was absolutely stunning; I didn’t even know that this fort existed till today. The production quality was also excellent,” says Radhika, who attended the play.

“It explored a known tale of history with a unique and interesting approach and actually managed to bring out the struggle of a philosopher, who has to go to battle,” she adds.

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