Close to home: play about Gandhi’s assassin stirs up family memories

Close to home: play about Gandhi’s assassin stirs up family memories

Boys on a Sixth-Form theatre trip explored one of the seminal moments in modern Indian history – the 1948 assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

Twenty-two Year 12 boys and their teachers went on the History department trip to the National Theatre to see The Father and the Assassin.

It tells the story of Hindu nationalist Nathuram Godse, who went from being a loyal follower of Gandhi and his non-violent methods to becoming his killer.

History teacher John Haswell said: “The play explores the conflicting narratives and complex desires of those involved in India’s struggle for freedom, and how Gandhi’s vision of an integrated nation of Hindus and Muslims clashed with the vision of others, including that of his assassin, who saw Gandhi’s integrationist ideals as a betrayal to his Hindu nationalist vision of a free India.

“For some of our students, the characters and individuals on stage were familiar through their own engagement with Indian history. Indeed, for some, the play was a portrayal of a more personal history, as family members may have experienced both the fight for independence and the horrors of partition.”

Regardless of their background, the visit enhanced all the boys’ understanding of Indian independence, showing how competing visions of a post-colonial India clashed, Mr Haswell added. They also appreciated the unique power of theatre to bring such ideas to life.

“The play also echoes beyond India, and speaks to conflicts elsewhere in the world where seemingly irreconcilable world-views collide.”

Written by Indian playwright Anupama Chandrasekhar, The Father and the Assassin premiered at the National last year. It completes its second run there this month.

After the visit, the boys, all A-level History students, gave their reactions. Joel Kidangan Justine said: “This was my first time to the theatre, and I’m amazed by how well they are able to capture the story of Indian independence in such a clever and interesting way.”

Kyshaan Ravikumar described the play as “an enticing reimagination of the struggle for Indian independence”, while Vaibhav Gaddi praised “a captivating story that sheds light on the story of Nathuram Vinayak Godse”.