Playwright Siddhartha Bose talks about his latest show No Dogs No Indians to play at the Alchemy Festival
2017 will mark 70 years since India became independent from British rule and with this leaves an everlasting effect of rebuilding and remembering. There were many figures that would have been crucial in ending colonial rule however sadly are left out of the history books. Pritilata Waddedar, a member of revolutionary group Surya Sen in 1932 took on the Pahartali European Club, a local act of rebellion that would only go on to contribute to the domino effect of a nation fighting back. Siddhartha Bose talks more about this little known revolutionary figure and her legacy.
No Dogs No Indians draws on Pritilata Waddedar a philosophy graduate who went on to live a short yet revolutionary life. Can you explain why she is an influential force?
I got interested in Pritalata’s story as she is a peripheral, almost forgotten, figure in the narrative of the Indian freedom movement against British rule. We don’t often hear about female freedom fighters and revolutionaries from the 1930s. Pritalata was a highly educated woman, yet gave her life for the cause of freedom. I do feel she is a unique figure, and her story needs to be told.
The play focuses on three points in time; 1932, 1970s and 2017. Why in particular are these dates significant?
No Dogs, No Indians, melds historical and fictional stories, and in doing so, maps the development of modern India. Pritalata Waddedar’s story is historically located in the 1930s, during the height of the varied freedom struggles against British colonialism. The other major character of the play, Shyamal Chatterjee, is a product of the Raj, someone who models himself on the colonial education and culture that was dominant in the India of the 1970s. The final strand of the play, which is set in 2017, looks at the ‘New India’, a country that is slowly emerging from the shadows of its colonial past in dynamic, if rather frightening, ways.
2017 will mark 70 years since the signing of the 1947 Indian Independence Act. How do you feel the events preceding and proceeding this have impacted India and the diaspora?
The experience of colonialism inflicted a deep psychological damage on the colonised. My play examines the various forms of this damage, and the reactions to it.
What would you like for audiences to take away from the production?
Recently, there have been a few new books and shows on the British experience in India, like Jon Wilson’s India Conquered to the Channel 4 series, Indian Summers. No Dogs, No Indians, emerges from this cultural climate, and in that sense, I hope that audiences are transported to different worlds and different periods and come away with a heightened sense of the effects of the colonial encounter. Equally, I hope they have an engaging and entertaining night out at the theatre!
No Dogs No Indians delves into themes of resistance, remembrance and recovery. Were these pre-planned or did they occur as you were writing the piece? Why tackle these themes?
I think that remembrance and recovery are a part of the process of excavating forgotten stories, or engaging with history and its ghosts. In that sense, Pritalata Waddedar’s story almost wrote itself, and demanded an exploration of these themes.
Your piece will educate audiences about a little known revolutionary who was a strong female figure. Do you feel that these stories are being told enough in theatre?
I may be wrong, but there don’t seem to be many plays looking at female revolutionaries, certainly not many from an Asian background.
Who or what inspires you as a writer?
Difficult question to answer. I love reading widely. I love the novels of Roberto Bolano. I love British theatre as well as watching plays and performances from all over the world- ‘global’ adaptations of Shakespeare done in all sorts of strange, bizarre ways really inspire me. I love the experience of walking in mega-cities. I’ve lived in London for the past 12 years, and I still get inspired walking its streets, every day.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Read widely. Travel. Experiment with life. Lose yourself . Pull yourself back from the brink. Figure out for yourself what your damage—what your subject matter—really is. Then, write.
Questions by Lucy Basaba.
No Dogs No Indians will be showing at the Southbank Centre as part of this year’s Alchemy Festival on Sunday 21st May. For more information on the production, Visit here…
17 – 18 May
Brighton Festival at the Spire, St Mark’s Chapel, Eastern Rd, Brighton BN2 5JN
8pm | £17.50 (U26s £12.50, Festival Standby £10)
www.brightonfestival.org | thespirearts.org | 01273 709709
Alchemy Festival at Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, Lambeth, London SE1 8XX
2pm & 5.30pm | £12 (£6 concs)
www.southbankcentre.co.uk | 020 7960 4200
Norwich Arts Centre, St Benedict’s Street, Norwich NR2 4PG
Part of Norfolk & Norwich Festival
8pm | £10
norwichartscentre.co.uk | 01603 660352
Live Theatre, Newcastle Broad Chare, Quayside, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 3DQ
www.live.org.uk | 0191 232 1232