Play on 1971 war to be staged on September 30 in Chennai


A scene from Operation Vijay 1971

A scene from Operation Vijay 1971
| Photo Credit: The Shades

For a quarter of a century since the Partition of India, East Pakistan lived in the shadow of its more prosperous, politically-dominant western counterpart.

When the Mukti Bahini (Bangladeshi guerrilla resistance movement) raised the call for independence, it resulted in a military response by Pakistan, with thousands of refugees pouring into India through its porous eastern border. By December 1971, the third Indo-Pak War broke out — fought over 13 days on two fronts, two seas and over air. On December 16, Dhaka fell to the Indian forces spearheaded by General Sam Manekshaw and the Mukti Bahini fighters. The iconic photograph of the signing of the Pakistani Instrument of Surrender that led to the birth of Bangladesh, and the surrender of Pakistan’s Lieutenant General AAK Niazi and his 93,000 soldiers, records a unique moment in the history of the subcontinent.

The fiftieth anniversary of the war was marked by events across India and Bangladesh despite the shadow of the pandemic. In Bihar, UDAAN — a nationwide alumni network of NCC cadets that works for the betterment of youth through social service activities — wanted to bring alive stories of the war. It organised a cycle expedition for NCC cadets, traversing 1,971 kilometres across the State. Along the way, the cadets performed nukkad (street theatre) on the war. The success of the 20-minute portrayals of how the East was won, inspired Major General M Indrabalan, Chief of Staff, Dakshin Bharat Area, to conceive and curate the larger play, Operation Vijay 1971.

Factfile

At 4.30pm, September 30, the play will be inaugurated by the Governor of Tamil Nadu at Guru Nanak College Auditorium.

At 11am on the same day, the play will be performed at the same venue for students and former NCC cadets.

Entry to the play is through non-ticketed admit passes that can be availed by writing to www.nccudaan.co.in with ID proof.

Additional shows may be held on October 1 with preference to accommodate those who were unable to attend the previous shows. For conducting organised shows email nccudaan4u@gmail.com

For this, he reached out to two Bihar-based organisations – Gulmohar Maitri, a non-profit that works to build awareness on women’s health and hygiene, (which has produced the play); and Surangan, an art culture-group active for over six decades in bringing alive war-related theatre productions (which choreographed it under the direction of Jitendra Chaurasia.)

Manju Sinha, founder-secretary of Gulmohar Maitri, says, “Even though the play was visualised in 2021, its first show premiered only in August 2023 with the Governor of Bihar inaugurating it. Surangan and Gulmohar researched deeply on the play drawing from historical books, museums, and the National Archives. The focus, is however, not so much on military strategy or nationalism, but on the human story of the men who went to war and the people they left behind. It also examines the psyche of Gen Niazi — what he had to go through when he had to take the call for the surrender of the Pakistan Army, a difficult decision which would impact perhaps his own life and death, that of his soldiers, and the dignity and honour of his country.”

A scene from the play Operation Vijay 1971

A scene from the play Operation Vijay 1971
| Photo Credit:
The Shades

The play does not end with the oft-repeated climax of the surrender but how Maj Gen JFR Jacob, then Chief of Staff of the Eastern Command, persuaded Gen Niazi to accept it publicly. The cast of nearly 40 actors comprising professionals and students in the age group of 18-60, will portray people from different walks of life, how they were impacted, and their roles.

While the actors stage the script, playing out the roles of generals, foot soldiers and the common man, their stoicism and dogged endurance will also be seen on video snippets from that age on a screen behind.

A scene from Operation Vijay 1971

A scene from Operation Vijay 1971
| Photo Credit:
The Shades

Colonel Lakshman (retired) from UDAAN that is hosting the first show in Chennai on September 30 said, “The play will be in Hindi and will be inaugurated by the Governor of Tamil Nadu.” The play is also likely to be adapted into Tamil to serve a larger audience. The organisers also hope to stage it at colleges on invitation, to show the young tales of derring-do over land, sea and air from over 50 years ago.



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