Art & Culture

A tribute to Bhagat Singh by Pathy Aiyar

Why am I an Atheist? Bhagat Singh’s essay has been adapted into a play “Of God and Country” where a conversation is played out between Bhagat Singh and his British guard.

Pathy Aiyar once casually asked his friend, “Do you believe in God?” Without any reply he handed him a copy of freedom fighter Bhagat Singh’s essay “Why I am an atheist” which he wrote in Lahore jail before being hanged. Questions stared him in the face and the essay was nothing short of sheer revelation to him. Pathy Aiyar is performing his critically acclaimed solo based on the essay at Kyra on the 7th of September.

‘Of God and Country’ is a conversation between Bhagat Singh and his British guard. The guard wonders why a man who is about to die, doesn't want to believe in God. The guard tries to convince Bhagat Singh that Belief could make his last few days easier. Pathy plays all the three roles of Bhagat Singh, the British officer and the narrator in the play. He did watch films on the freedom fighter and also read up extensively on him but Pathy says it was quite difficult to thoroughly understand the psyche of a person who died decades back. According to him, most people are unaware of this aspect of Bhagat Singh and that is what makes this piece unique. He stresses that no film has ever spoken about this aspect of Bhagat Singh’s life.

The play evolved during rehearsals over a single thought. “People tend to forget about the x number of people who died for us during the freedom struggle. I used to often sit in Koshy’s and wonder what would have happened to us if not for the sacrifices of the likes on Gandhi and Bhagat Singh. We would probably have been in a state of apartheid for more than 15-20 years. This piece has a lot of twists and turn coupled with humour and since no films have ever covered this, it is definitely very unique. I have done almost ten shows of this and I have had the audience crying even. For me, Khaki represents both the revolutionary and the oppressor.”

Pathy mentions that for a 23 year old revolutionary, Bhagat Singh was extremely well read and he never spoke from a blind point of view. May be if he would have lived longer, his quest would have taken him places. Talking about his own religious orientation, Pathy says he is not quite sure. He has a lot of questions in his mind. Bhagat Singh’s essay did help him to a large extent. He said “His questions are very simple. If there is a God, there should not be any oppression or poverty. These are questions even we have in our minds. Atheism might not be the final answer but the quest remains.”

‘Of God and Country’ has been written by established Bangalore-based writer and creative director of Ogilvy & Mather, Deepak Joshi. Theatre actor/director Ashish Sen has designed and directed the play. Pathy himself has been into theatre for more than 20 years now. Pathy Aiyar is also part of the successful and acclaimed play, 'The Alchemist' directed by Mahesh Dattani. This particular play has been previously showcased at the Delhi International Arts Festival, The Other Festival, Bangkok Theatre Festival, Golem Theatre Budapest, NCPA Mumbai and Nehru Centre London.  

Date:    Sep 7th 2009  
Time:    8. 30 p.m.  
Dur:      45 minutes.  
Tkt:      Rs 199


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