Part of the International conference on Maharashtra in September 2021 - Aishwarya Walvekar, JNU, New Delhi
Nostalgia is often defined as a ‘yearning for a past’ (Boym), which circulates across time through memories materializing in oral cultures, texts and scriptures, theatre and performances. The circuit of its circulation is completed when that nostalgia materializes in the genealogies of its tradition and ‘surrogate’ (Roach) and diffuse into different forms. The icon of Shivaji has been circulating across the political, social, cultural landscapes of Maharashtra since the seventeenth century and is appropriated by the different castes and ideologies. The economy of the circulation of the icon of Shivaji is vast and spread across different forms and mediums.
Janata Raja, a three hour play by B. M. Purandare circulates the icon of Shivaji through its form of historical pageantry – catering to thousands of audiences at once on a large scale as well as involving the public sphere in the process of its embodiment. Open to all, the cast of the play is comprised of untrained enthusiasts eager to embody through the recorded voice and costumes a nostalgia of the seventeenth century past. In doing so, the idea of sovereignty is challenged due to the ‘dual-time’ that the theatrical performance creates. This paper attempts to understand nostalgic past and its materialized presence in theatre circulating through the bodies of the actors and reorganizing the public sphere by its propagation. It argues that one needs to address historicism through the idea of circulation rather than a unidirectional approach by analyzing the case of Janata Raja