Mohan: A Partition Story
Storyteller and theatre creator Niall Moorjani’s new play is a deeply personal account of their grandfather’s own journey during India’s Partition, when he was just 11 years old. 2022 marked the 75th anniversary of the tragic event, in which entire families were ripped apart, becoming refugees in their own country.
It is 1604 Gujarat, and we are in a port town; the East India Trading Company goes about its business, using slaves to trade. Noorjani’s monologue is powerful (the British “know nothing of the land they have arrived in”), immediately capturing the audience. Whether they are describing delectable foods like murgh dhal, paratha and yellow potatoes, or the events that ensued through Partition – in their grandfather’s words – the writer is a natural.
Moorjani recalls how, before Partition, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs would celebrate each other’s festivals, living side-by-side in relative peace, while the British sought to aggravate their differences, and rule through the insidious method of divide and conquer.
As the playwright swiftly courses through the complex history of Partition (they only have an hour), they outline ideas behind the Empire, Winston Churchill and his problematic values, and Britain’s 200 years of ruling that the Indian populace fought to abolish. The actor shocks the audience describing how, when citizens galvanised, Britain’s response was to burn them to death. There is absolute silence as everyone listens with bated breath, Moorjani maintaining the their attention with ease through witty political commentary and moving real-life accounts. There is a lot of substance to the piece, which drives to the very heart of Partition: in one scene, Moorjani memorably reenacts a job interview between Lord Mountbatten and Cyril Radcliffe, the man who was responsible for dividing India and Pakistan, without real experience of the land or any idea of what he was doing (he had never been East of Paris and used outdated maps).
This is an intensely personal story, and, even though millions experienced the forced division, Moorjani succeeds in shaping his grandfather’s own experience into genuinely good theatre that spurs audiences to research farther into one of the darkest parts of human history.
Mohan: A Partition Story was on at The Vaults for one performance only on 26th February 2023.
Read more reviews from our Vault Festival 2023 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Vault Festival website here.