Houston Maharashtra Mandal’s “Janata Raja” Enactment on Chhatrapati Shivaji Draws Rave Reviews

The rajyaabhishek (coronation) scene from “Janata Raja” enactment of Chhatrapati Shivaji’s life by Houston Maharashtra Mandal. Here Pandit Gagabhatt (Nitin Gokhale) from Kashi (center) declares Shivaji (Nimish Jagtap) the king on the golden throne as the courtiers cheer as Jijau (Meghana Jadhav), Shivaji’s mother watches from the upper window on the left and Shivshahir (Swanand Deshmukh) rises in the air on the right as he describes the scene in song. Photo credit: Pradnya S Joshi.

BY VARSHA HALABE

HOUSTON: “Janata Raja”, the brain child of Shiv Shaheer Babasaheb Purandare, was presented in all its glory in Houston, as a fund raiser for Houston Maharashtra Mandal’s Vastu Project at the Stafford Center on March 9, 2019.

This is a play depicting the life of Chhatrapati Shivajiraje Bhosale who established the Maratha Empire defeating Adilshahi and Nizamshahi rulers during 1630-1680 AD in Maharashtra, India
The audience’s enthusiastic rave response was totally on par with the amount of work that went into the production.

Actors, directors, backstage artists, property developers, stage set engineers kept at the task for the last six months, putting in tireless hours of work and rehearsals. The last four weekends comprised 12 hours, at a stretch, of practices.
The added challenge to the presentation was that it had to be coordinated to the tee to a pre-recorded track that is strictly copyright protected by Babasaheb. The whole presentation came together flawlessly, making the audience doubt whether these were professionals or local talent! A total over 600 seats were sold, raising a total contribution of $190,000 for the Vastu project.

Babasaheb’s recommended, two established director-actors, Anand Javdekar and Abhishek Jadhav, were invited from India to guide the enthusiastic participants in Houston. The directors worked tirelessly with the local project manager Abhishek Bhat and local director Chaitrali Thote-Gokhale, resulting in an outstanding performance. Most of the actors were performing on stage for the very first time.

The stage set was built locally and was 21 feet tall and 50 feet wide with Goddess Bhavani’s replica projected in the center as Shivaji Maharaj was her ardent follower and disciple
Several anecdotes of Shivajiraje’s life were a part of the play with Jijabai, his mother, being his inspiration and mentor for the creation of “Swarajya” (independence). Shivajiraje Bhosale is like God to the State of Maharashtra and a production like “Janata Raja” further commemorates his bravery, valor, and at the same time, his principles of kindness and generosity.

This is yet another feather in the Houston Maharashtra Mandal’s (HMM) cap, which over the past five years, has really geared up to build its own community center and temple under the direction of HMM Vastu President Rahul Deshmukh and HMM Cultural President Jyotsna Phadke. HMM now have their own land of 11 acres in Rosenberg and have recently built a Sankalp Maruti prayer station, which will be inaugurated in April. As funds accumulate, HMM hopes to build a Siddhi Vinayak temple and a sabhagruha (auditorium) on the property.

More successful ventures/fund raisers like “Janata Raja” should make the Vastu an achievable goal in the near future. Along with the performing artists and the volunteers in the back stage, the Vastu Committee and the “Janata Raja” Marketing team did an outstanding job in raising funds.

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