Ranaangan : Third Battle of Panipat, Drama Review

Published April 5, 2015 by vishalvkale

Ranaangan – Marathi Natak
Artist – Avinash Narkar, Ashok Samarth, Shreekant Desai
Drama Director: Vaman Kendre
Video Director: Shweta Parulkar
Story: Vishwas Patil

The Third Battle of Panipat took place on 14 January 1761.The battle pitted the artillery and cavalry of the Marathas against the Afghans. Ranaangan is the brave portrayal of the Maratha Soldiers who fought the war with true grit.

Ranaangan is the background story of the battle of Panipat, and a look at why The Maratha Confederacy lost; a heart-rending tale of treachery, deceit, courage, valour, back-stabbing, infighting, internecine issues, and lack of a common narrative. A tragic tale of  the defeat of a superior force, and an even more tragic tale of the descent of India into chaos! It is also a tale of a superb leader of men, a far-sighted genius {Bhausaaheb}, & a tale of the unknown hero in Jankoji Shinde and Dutta Shinde – whose progeny were yet again to feature in another pivotal battle, 1857; and who would be wrongly understood for centuries {as per me}, a product of the disturbed narrative we are exposed to…
It is also a stunning revelation to those who arent aware of the Maratha Power, or that The Mughal throne was actually put up and supported by Maratha Power by the mid of the 18th century, or that there was a treaty between The Maratha and The Mughal for the protection of Delhi. The real national power were The Maratha Confederacy; and in the Maratha Confederacy you get to see how India came to be subjugated by a completely inferior British Man… 

For that was what this battle meant : it meant an easy path to the rule of India by the British; The 3rd Battle of Panipat will always remain etched in our history as one of the most epochal battles to have determined the fate of India. After Panipat, while the Marathas were still strong, the aura had diminished; it was just a matter of time before they were vanquished, as the Anglo-Maratha wars were to subsequently prove!


Portraying a historical event on the limited creative platform of a stage is always a massive challenge for any number of reasons; the limitations imposed my time, space, content mean that telling the story in a clear and precise manner is rather hard, to put it frankly. This calls for a script that is woven with great care and attention to the requirements of the overall plot. 

The plot here is the run-up to the 3rd Battle Of Panipat, the sequence of political and military events that led to the battle; the planning of the battle; the various historical figures and their roles; the internal relationships and internecine problems; and finally the battle itself. The script has been handled exceptionally well, given the wide and extensive scope of the plot of the play; the entire historical narrative has been adapted to the theatre with remarkable aplomb. 

The direction : excellent, period. This is not an easy play to perform; it ranks as one of the most difficult stage adaptations I have encountered in my life. Every aspect – the props, the stage and the character intonations and delivery  are excellent and top-notch. Getting everyone to gel together for 3 long hours of continuous performance must have been exceptionally challenging. What got my admiration was the blocking: the usage of the limited space, which was sheer class. It has to be seen to be believed; and how it actually adds to the story in places!

The performances are all top-class; among these, performances of the characters of Jankoji Shinde, Datta Shinde, Malharrao Holkar, Abdali & Vishwasrao deserve a special mention. But the one man who stands above all is Avinash Narkar, portraying Bhausaaheb, the titular leader of the Maratha Force; Avinash has brought forth the sheer power of the character, personifying the adroit skill with which he wields these infighting people into battle-ready mode, with tremendous skill; you can feel the power and the conviction of the performance!


This is a drama that shatters several myths, and takes more than several reputations head-on! A story of how even people with good intentions, as shown by Holkar, Gaikwad, Vinchurkar, Bhausaheb, Gardi, Jankoji Shinde, etc lead to collective disaster, as infighting destroys morale, leading to defeat – even of a much superior strategy and a comparable strength. It also gives a completely different look at the Shindes of Gwalior… as well as the entire ensemble. 

This is a chilling and blunt portrayal… a story of infighting, deceit and high treason… the true story of Panipat; the story of the infighting among the Holkars and the Gaikwad’s on one side and the Peshwa’s emissary Bhausaaheb and Jankoji Shinde on the other side, with planned backstabbing in Pune to boot… a story of how lack of internal trust and teamwork combined with vested interests and lack of knowledge in some key generals was to lead to a superior force being decimated. 

It is the story of how one mistake can cause disaster- leaving a man {Najib} due to his being supported by Holkar, despite anger of Shindes of Gwalior, Peshwas of Pune… one mistake. Najib was later to prove instrumental in both killing Datta Shinde and retaining Abdali back in India at a crucial juncture when he had given up… Just one mistake – compounded again and again and again by the infighting… a tragic story of infighting!  It is the story of how The Holkar and The Gaikwad group’s lack  of trust in Ibrahim Gardi was to lead to disaster…

This battle left India open and defenceless; had The Maratha Confederacy managed to rise above its internal squabbles, maybe, just maybe, history would have been different. We shall never know now; but we can all learn from this sad episode – Divided We Fall, United We Stand. The old maxim is spot-on accurate… watch this drama to understand exactly why… 

I normally base my historical articles on evidence-based books; this is based only on the presented drama, linked above. Thus, I make no claim of its historical accuracy; but have taken the trouble of watching a news presentation {linked below}, which tallies in all essential details with the drama; further, it also tallies with what I have read in some other pedigreed historical books reviewed on my blog. But to say more, I will need to study the history in a good and pedigreed book. 

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