Jai Hind…..An Adaptation of ‘The Descent Of The Blue’

What did you think of the show tonight?

“I had very little expectations, because there were so many uncertainties, but it came off very well.”  Still wearing his wig of long flowing white hair Kaivalya answers me. Minutes earlier he and his 2 sons, along with a large cast had just taken their bows before a large and very enthusiastic audience.

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I caught up with him as he was making a hasty exit from the performance space and heading back to his room in order to change out of his costume.  Taking quick strides up the hill he was approached every few meters by excited and happy audience members, who would either call out their congratulations, or reach out to shake his hand.  He is clearly moved by all the very real and fervent enjoyment that so many had for his project. Which was the once only performance of a  play entitled, Jai Hind (Indian independence victory slogan), based on a play by Sri Chinmoy called, The Descent Of The Blue.

For the moment he still eerily resembles the great Indian spiritual Master Sri Aurobindo.  The loud roar of approval from the crowd of several hundred, who had just watched his performance over several enjoyable hours  seems to still linger in the warm still air of this New York night.  It was an unequivocal triumph, but it was also a performance that resonated with an even deeper meaning.   For it was in many ways a promise at last fulfilled.  One that had taken its natural rich course of 15 years to finally arrive on the auspicious night of August 25th at the Aspiration Ground in New York.

Descent-of-the-Blue“In 1999 Sri Chinmoy phoned me up directly, and he said, I want you to do, Descent of the Blue.  Take as much time as you like.  3 hours, 4 hours, 5 hours, what do you think?”

“I said, I don’t know Guru.  He said use as many people as you like.  Spend as much money as you like but do a very big production.  So I said fine.  It was the fall and Sri Chinmoy wanted it in August.  I can’t remember the time sequence but I was calling people all over the world.  Particularly people who looked Indian to take part.  I was preparing and researching, and reading books and going to the Sri Aurobindo society in London.”

But then an unforeseeable set of circumstances arose that winter and the project was shelved, for what appeared to be an indefinite time period.  Gradually slipping away out of reach and almost tumbling into oblivion.

The passing of Sri Chinmoy in 2007 could easily have been the absolute end of any hope of the production ever finding its way to the stage.   Kaivalya however never completely gave up hope, as it was clearly something direct and significant that his Spiritual teacher had asked of him.  But over time his once powerful commitment had been reduced he says to just a small inkling.

But like so many of the great seeds of inspiration that Sri Chinmoy carefully planted and nurtured in the hearts of his students this one was to finally find new life.   He says that while visiting Portugal in early 2013 he performed in a short performance where he played the part of Sri Aurobindo.   Someone remarked afterwards.  That they liked the play but that they had also seen and enjoyed Kaivalya years earlier portraying Sri Aurobindo  in another play.  His reaction to their compliment, “my heart leapt, You know, you are right.”

Sri Chinmoy_at_samadhiIt was in 1958 while still living in the Sri Aurobindo ashram that Sri Chinmoy had written the original play, The Descent Of The Blue.”  He and his brothers and sisters had first come there in 1944.  He was just 12 years of age when he first arrived.  From then until he left the ashram in 1964 he grew up and developed in its very powerful spiritual, cultural, and athletic environment.

Sri Chinmoy’s play is a devoted and soulful appreciation of the life, of not just one of the towering figures of India, but also one, who through his divine wisdom, was also a source of inspiration to the world.  Sri Chinmoy was able to capture the transformation of a man from Indian revolutionary to one who became an enlightened spiritual teacher to the world.  A task in which the young Sri Chinmoy was uniquely placed, living in Pondicherry, to carefully and devotedly write about.

Between 1958 and 1962 the play was originally published in installments in an ashram publication.  In 1974 it was published intact some 10 years after Sri Chinmoy had established his own spiritual community in New York.  But now as Kaivalya pondered the challenges of at last bringing a lengthy play to a western audience, he came up with the best possible strategy.

“So I handed over the directorship to my son, (Devashishu), who has more energy than I have.  Both sons in fact said it is much too long a play for one evening.  So why don’t we split it in half.  We will do the political bit now and next year in August we will do the super mind bit.  I said fine.”

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“So Devashishu took over the directorship, and he wrote in bits to explain what was happening politically, he added lots more.  So the play was completely rounded off.”

For several days leading up to the big night Devashishu was rehearsing the play in a large back yard a few blocks from the performance space.  I spoke with him earlier.

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“The project is a performance based on a play by Sri Chinmoy called The Descent Of The Blue.  It is the story of Sri Aurobindo a great Indian Spiritual Master, who was Sri Chinmoy’s master.”

Abhinabha plays the young Aurobindo

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As we talk it is unclear if the entire play has ever been performed in its entirety.  “It certainly hasn’t been performed for many years.  People had approached my father last Christmas and said, we would really like to see a performance of this play.  At different times my father has played the part of the older Sri Aurobindo, with the grey hair and the grey beard.  He looks fantastic in the part.  He really does.  There is something that he captures when he plays that particular part.”

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He says that the original play if performed beginning to end would take at least 2 and a half hours.  “It is really long and there are lots of small scenes.”

In the initial stages Kaivalya set to work to somehow create a smaller version of a long play.   One that would still pay homage to an historic work and yet in no way diminish its epic story.  Devashishu says, “he had done a very good job and really gone through quite thoroughly.  But when I looked at it, from my own experience of doing plays.  I could see that some scenes wouldn’t work and some scenes there wasn’t enough context.  So I felt that it needed to be reworked.”

“When my father brought me the script it wasn’t until May of this year.”

Kaivalya plays the older Sri Aurobindo and recites the important passages throughout the play.

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“As usual I said I would rework it and it took ages to get round to doing that.  When I took a look at the script I was really inspired.  The play is interesting the way Sri Chinmoy has done it he has done a lot of really small scenes.  Sri Aurobindo himself is pretty much the thread that runs through the whole play.  Not many other characters develop.”

” But the words….. The words that were put in this play particularly the speeches.  The words by Sri Aurobindo are so lofty.  So powerful and such a real insight from Sri Chinmoy, a yogi in his own right.  Into the workings of another yogi and spiritual master.”

The fact that Sri Chinmoy actually lived in the presence of Sri Aurobindo, Devashishu says, “you feel that too.  He is somebody who really understands.  More than someone who has just read about him as a historical figure.  He knew also his inner workings.”

Sahadeva is musical director and much more.

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“The interesting thing about Sri Aurobindo is that he wasn’t initially a spiritual figure.  He was a literary scholar.  He went to Cambridge and his father wanted him to be a model Englishman.  He got into political activism in England and he started to understand the plight of his own country back home.  He started to go to meetings, and started to talk to people about what they should do to free India.  So his early life wasn’t at all spiritual.  He loved literature, he loved the classics.  He studied Greek and Latin at Cambridge.  He read everything he could get his hands on.  He also wrote thousands and thousands of scripts.”

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“They aren’t easy to pick up and lightly read them.  At the same time when you really focus and read them they are so powerful.  You only have to read a little bit and it feeds something in you.”

“Again it is recent history.  He was integrally involved in the struggle for freedom in India.  He really really worked for the freedom of India.”

I hadn’t spent much time watching the groups rehearsals before it became obvious that this new version of Sri Chinmoy’s play, now called, Jai Hind, would also have some comic elements as well included.   Ones which were not written by Sri Chinmoy into his original play, The Descent of the Blue.  “The reason for the humor is because we are performing this play for an audience of about 1000 people.  As we used to do when we performed plays in Sri Chinmoy’s day he loved humor.”

Mukul and Bijon

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“We have taken this liberty.  These freedom fighters were very naive, they were new to the whole uprising.  They were new to weapons and bombs and they made a lot of mistakes in the early days.  It is a serious subject but there is naturally quite a bit of humor there.”

“The main scenes are where Sri Aurobindo speaks, he offers words are so lofty and so inspiring.  It is absolutely applicable to today’s world.  It is about the freedom of human beings from ignorance and rising up to throw of those shackles.  In absolutely every sphere of life it is pertinent.  I think it will really inspire people.  It is really something very special.”

There will be special effects

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“Sri Chinmoy was always pushing us.   He actually said to my father, I would like you to do this play.  He just never got round to doing it.  Now we are finally getting around to realizing that request.”

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Dress Rehearsal

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Devashishu reading some lines.

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The fight for Independence

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A young Sri Aruobindo finds his voice for the first time in England

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The meeting of political parties

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Mukul speaker of the house

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Time for cricket.

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Kaivalya watching his project unfold.

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Slowly and surely the play comes together.

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Lots of little details

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Never enough rehearsal but still it will work out perfectly

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Abhinabha as the young Sri Aurobindo

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How Sri Aurobindo looked at this stage of his life

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The revolution has begun

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Looking the part

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Taking the struggle to the stands

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A strategy for freedom

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Jai Hind…..Victory to India

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There are losers in every battle

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The goal is nearly won

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The early life of Sri Arubindo shared with a new generation

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The young Sri Aurobindo gives his final speech

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The cast bows to its rightful applause.

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Kaivalya takes a bow.

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Presenting the play in a location not designed for theater is not easy.  “We had rain and my script was getting wet.  Everything other than that went perfectly.  We were going to have lights and do all that but in the end we decided to do it in an open way.  It worked well.”

For now Kaivalya and his cast and crew have an entire year to prepare for the second and last part of the performance.  “I look forward to that.  Because it will be different then.  It will all be about the super mind, and the work in Pondicherry.”

Kaivalya says that he made a trip to India in February which he says has helped very much with his interpretation and understanding of Sri Aurobindo as well as the early life of his own teacher Sri Chinmoy.  “So I have a much fuller appreciation of what went on in Pondicherry.”

“So when we come to build up the play, round the Descent of the Blue about Pondicherry I will have a good back up in my mind of all the places I saw.  Otherwise I haven’t the slightest idea what Pondicherry was like.  Until I went there.”

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Doing research in India

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Kaivalya and his sons will return with the final installment in August 2015

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4 Comments to “Jai Hind…..An Adaptation of ‘The Descent Of The Blue’”

  1. Francesco says:

    Hi Utpal
    fantastic!!! Tahnk you.

    All can be done if the God-touch is there.

    [Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, Book 1, Canto 1]

    Sri Chinmoy, All can be done if the God-touch is there, , 1997

  2. Vandya says:

    Thank you Utpal for such a great report! Photos are great. I’m glad that you took trouble to document preparations as well.

  3. Anukampa says:

    Excellent blog with brilliant photographs and video to illustrate this special production . What comes across most profoundly is the heart, the sincerity, the oneness of the disciples who performed ‘The Descent of the Blue. ‘ And Kaivalya realized Guru’s dream, Kaivalya performed with Guru’s Heart.

  4. Aditi says:

    Unfortunately I was not there to see this production, but your recounting made me feel as if I was in the front row. I wish it had been filmed. The whole event is so inspiring!

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