How One Musical Is Aiming to Remind Indians of their History in Malaysia

  • 18 Apr 2019

Shangkharee Nadarajan is on a mission: She wants to remind Indians of their history in this country, and of the role their forefathers played in Malaysia’s fight for independence.

It’s a tough ask: many Malaysians, especially the young, only have a vague knowledge of the Indian community’s life in this country before the cry of ‘Merdeka’ rang out in the country in 1957.

Important aspects of history, such as the fact that Indians' origins in Malaysia can be traced to the 19th century when British brought them to work in the rubber plantations, are being increasingly forgotten in today’s world of immediacy.

Even in the performing arts scene, very few works capture the history and lives of Malaysian Indians in pre-independent Malaya. Musicals and historical plays that highlight their origins are few and far between.

For journalist and actress Shangkharee, this begs one question: How can we understand the making of Malaysia without learning about the origins and contributions of all its citizens, including the Indian community? 

Shangkharee is hoping 'Malaya Relived: Merdeka' helps answer the question. The musical play, which begins tomorrow, aims to represent the stories of Malaysian Indians' and their struggles before independence.

"When we talk about independence, in general, it's always about the Malay perspective of Merdeka. But, Malaysian Indians have also played an undeniable role in fighting for freedom and justicein Malaysia,” Shangkharee told Astro Ulagam.

'Merdeka', produced by award-winning theatre company Liver & Lung Productions, is the second instalment in the critically-acclaimed Malaya Relived series. Their first installment Malaya Relived: The Fall Singapore was a great success!

The musical series 'seeks to unveil the challenges and the ideological threats our ancestors had to overcome in their fight for Malayan independence'.

‘Merdeka’ revolves around Raj Veerasamy, an active member of MIC and a staunch supporter of the rising anti-colonial Merdeka movement. When his path crosses with British Foreign Correspondent, Sylvia Graham, who travels to Malaya hoping to pen the article of her career, a saga of love amidst the fight for independence begins to unfold.

The three-act musical features Ola Bola Musical's Prem Sagar as Raj, UK-based actress Hannah Shields as Sylvia and newcomer Shangkharee as Shivani, Raj's vibrant student who pushes him to use his power to do more than pay lip service to the plight of Malayan Indians.

The play will run on 19th April (3 pm, 8 pm), 20th April (8 pm) and 21st April (3 pm, 8 pm) at GMBB in KL. For more details, log on to Liver and Lung.

And if you’re wondering if you should watch this, here’s a reason why, from Shangkharee herself:

“Our stories will only be alive as long as it's told. The Indian community in Malaysia don't get many opportunities like this to tell their stories."