Krishnei’s Krishna

Group: Chinmaya Mission Study Group 

Dramatist: Bharti Haralalka

Director: Sahir Siddiqui








The Cannonball Moment

Group: St Xavier’s School and Alumnorum Societas

Dramatist-director: Rajiv Gupta



Quite by chance, two educational bodies staged big-budget amateur English-language productions in May of originally-composed spiritual drama, Hindu and Christian respectively: Krishnei’s Krishna by Chinmaya Mission Study Group and The Cannonball Moment by St Xavier’s School and its Alumnorum Societas.


Bharti Haralalka, author of the former, has prior experience in writing such plays, the last one being on the Buddha. Her skill revealed itself in the concept of Draupadi’s guilt at having triggered the war and her questioning the faith of four women (Bhanumati, Krushali, Subhadra, Kunti) who lost their menfolk on the battlefield, before they merge in divine union with Krishna, one by one. Much of Haralalka’s script remained on voiceover, the actors miming to the words. She takes some liberties with the Mahābhārata, which, notably, never names Karna’s wife. “Krushali” appears to be an erroneous reading of Vrushali, the name Shivaji Sawant gave her in his classic Mrityunjaya. But more distressingly than imaginative freedom, seasoned director Sahir Siddiqui allowed the dramatis personae to turn into an ostentatious fashion pageant (perhaps aided by the sponsoring jeweller’s). They hardly resembled bereaved ladies ascending to heaven. Equally unacceptable, he resorted to the old, discontinued method of lopping mature tree branches for the set.


As a Xaverian I looked forward to The Cannonball Moment, a rare show in my old auditorium (where I first acted). The occasion celebrated the 500th year of the trauma when soldier Inigo of Loyola nearly died after a cannonball smashed his legs at the Battle of Pamplona. Miraculously he recovered, devoted himself to Christ, founded the Society of Jesus—a stellar contributor to education around the world—and eventually became St Ignatius. Most significant to our context, the Jesuits realized theatre’s instructive power and actively supported theatre by pupils in their institutions from the 16th century, pioneering school dramatics. Rajiv Gupta’s work recalled an earlier tradition, too, of medieval saint-plays. He set it in the present, with students on a social-work trip, in the process of which they learn about Ignatius’ life. Sadly, his direction was deficient, the boys’ acting and articulation stilted and singsong, certainly not up to scratch for Xaverians. The choreography and songs fared much better, “Ālo āmār ālo ogo” in English a pleasant surprise. Given the high standards attained of late by school drama in Kolkata, of which St Xavier’s seems unaware, I hope the Society of Jesus acts to reclaim its historic role in educational theatre.