Actor Rohit Roy, who is set to try out for the role of BR Ambedkar in a major musical, believes he was destined to play this “larger than life personality” on stage.
Ambedkar’s extraordinary life and legacy is set to come to life in a spectacular Broadway-style musical, which will run from February 25 to March 12 at JLN Stadium here.
“I’ve done all genres and mediums, from TV to theater to movies to OTT platforms. But, when I was preparing for this role, one thing that really helped me was the similarity I feel between his life and mine, which is that we both had to struggle,” he said.
“He (Ambedkar), despite his academic achievements and caliber, until the end of his life continued to struggle to tell society that all humans should be equal. I also had difficulties in my career, I didn’t have a sponsor in the industry and I kept working to get ahead. So I feel like I was, in a way, destined to play her role,” Roy told PTI in an interview.
The 53-year-old actor suggested that the grand musical, organized by the Delhi government, should become a ‘travelling show’ so that ‘the story of Ambedkar’s life in this spectacular avatar’ could be transported to various regions from India and abroad.
The script of the play is embedded with social commentary on the plight of the Dalit community and its struggle even after 75 years of independence, he said.
Asked about the current situation of the Dalits and the politics of the vote banks being carried out on their behalf, he said he was sad that social divisions still exist in the society.
“He was against the unequal situation in our society, and he was right. And, how can you treat two citizens of the country differently? We see a division along religious lines, societal lines, and then you have the social division of humans along four or five different parameters that doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t even make sense.
Rohit Roy alleged that today the division in society seems to be more religious, but caste-based divisions do exist. He said there is a line in the piece which reads: ‘Today a lot of people have also come to terms with inequality in our society which is sad.
The play about the architect of the Indian Constitution will be staged on a 100ft arena featuring a 40ft revolving stage, which has been set up with a thematic design. Stagecraft also includes digital props and spectacular light and shadow play.
The music and songs include contributions from the Indian Ocean band, and vocalist Shubha Mudgal lent her powerful vocals to the climactic song, of which Roy said, “It gave me goosebumps”.
“The Indian Ocean music and songs, especially at the climax, add a totally different layer to the show. not just entertainment for people, but the audience will definitely take away the message that we intend to convey, which is the values that Babasaheb stood for and fought for,” he added.
Around 30 cast and support crew members, largely drawn from a theater studio in Delhi, are part of the production.
Asked about his preparation to try out for the role, Roy said: “I tried to slip into his character emotionally – how Babasaheb would have said those lines and how he would have reacted to a particular situation. And, the script is wonderful, not preachy, and I keep repeating my lines over and over, to deliver them more effectively.”
The actor said Ambedkar’s portrayal in film, theaters and documentaries was largely “very academic and preachy in nature”, but this musical is totally different from previous interpretations.
The scenario emphasizes the importance of education as a means of empowerment. “I think one of the turning points in his life was his unwavering fight for education, especially at Elphinstone College in Bombay,” said the actor, also known for films like LOC: Kargil, Fashion. and Kaabil.