Remembering 7/7 London & 11/7 Mumbai

ATCA Briefings

The Far Pavilions of shared Imperial Past & Dynamic Present

London, UK - 8 July 2007, 08:36 GMT - We are grateful to Michael E Ward, a British subject, for his submission to ATCA from Mumbai, India, "Remembering 7th July 05, London, and 11th July 06, Mumbai -- The Far Pavilions of a shared Imperial Past & Present."

intentBlog: Remembering 7/7 London & 11/7 Mumbai

Dear ATCA Colleagues

[Please note that the views presented by individual contributors are not necessarily representative of the views of ATCA, which is neutral. ATCA conducts collective Socratic dialogue on global opportunities and threats.]

Michael E Ward was lead producer of the GBP 4 million West End of London stage musical production of 'The Far Pavilions' in 2005 having acquired the stage rights from author, M M Kaye, in 1998. He was also the original adaptor of the novel for the stage and co-founder of the producing company, Far Pavilions Ltd, with John Whitney and Ram Gidoomal CBE, a long standing ATCA member. A writer, lyricist and producer since 1992, he has developed and produced concerts and workshop productions of 'Ratcatcher', a musical co-written with composer Philip Henderson. Michael graduated with a Postgraduate Diploma in International Marketing from Napier University, Edinburgh, where he won the Institute of Export's prize for best thesis. His first job was as a Market Analyst for George Angus in Newcastle, his second as Export Marketing Manager for Richard Klinger in Kent, during which time he won the Lord Mayor of London's Travelling Scholarship for a market thesis on Iran subsequently travelling there to conclude successfully significant export sales during Ayatollah Khomeini's regime. He was engaged as Marketing Director of Computatest, an oil services company in Aberdeen and the Denholm Shipping Group in Glasgow. In 1982, he graduated from The University of Stirling with a BA in modern languages. He has recently returned to India, where he spent his childhood, and plans to set up a film production company. His first feature film is a new USD 10 million adaptation of 'The Far Pavilions' to be filmed in Hindi and English. He writes:

Dear DK and Colleagues

Re: Remembering 7th July 05, London, and 11th July 06, Mumbai -- The Far Pavilions of a shared Imperial Past & Dynamic Present

In the world at large, as in the world of entertainment, every day is someone's special day. An anniversary. A day to be marked. Any theatre producer in London or Broadway will attest to that, which is why great pains are taken to present each performance as freshly as the first. On the 7th of July 2005, around 40 performances of shows as old as The Mousetrap and Les Miserables and as new as my own stage musical production of The Far Pavilions, based on M M Kaye's Indo-British-Afghan epic novel, were about to be given in the London's West End. None of them took place. Four suicide bombers struck on three underground trains and a bus in Tavistock Square killing 52 people and injuring hundreds.

That day, as transport systems descended into chaos, we cancelled two performances: a matinee and an evening show at which I was due to welcome a VIP guest - the wife of Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. The Indian PM was in Scotland attending the G8 summit at Gleneagles when the bombers quite literally stole centre stage.

The Far Pavilions had opened on the 14th of April at the Shaftesbury Theatre. A Royal Gala raising funds for charities working in India was attended by HRH Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall on the 16th of May. Word of mouth was good but trading conditions difficult. By early July, though, we were determined and hopeful of digging in for the long run if we got through to the autumn. So it was that in the late evening on the 6th of July, with solid investor support, I signed an agreement that extended our tenure at the Shaftesbury until the end of January 2006. Or so I thought.

At the time of the Tavistock Square bus bomb on the morning of the 7th, I was in a marketing meeting designed to boost awareness and increase ticket sales. Shortly after the terrible news reached us, the marketing agency announced that all advance ticket bookings for West End shows had fallen to zero activity. We realised then that our challenge had become almost insuperable. We struggled on, waiting with others for theatregoers to resume their habits but, with more failed bomb attempts on 26/7, it became clear that the game was lost. We decided to close on the 17th of September 2005. Four or five other shows that, like us, were too new to be a fixture on the London entertainment landscape did the same.

It had taken M M Kaye fifteen years to write the runaway best-seller that reached 15 million readers in 16 languages. It had taken me seven years to create a show and raise the GBP 4 million necessary to re-tell that important story on stage. Important because, aside from its entertainment value and romance, the story's climax takes place at the siege of the British Residency in Kabul, in 1879, where the British Envoy, three British Officers and 75 Indian sepoys needlessly lost their lives. The waste of human life had angered Mollie Kaye, not least because one of the British Officers, Walter Hamilton VC, was her husband's ancestor who had forecast his own death in a letter home. Her response was to write a fictional story set against the very real backdrop of the Great Game between the Russian and British empires' costly quest for control over Afghanistan.

For me, reaching an audience of some 100,000 people over 200 performances was not a fitting end to my attempt to re-tell a story I felt relevant to our times. For a few months, I reviewed my options. I had the stage rights to the novel, the blessing of its author and had acquired film rights to the adapted storyline. Before Mollie Kaye passed away aged 96, she had charged me with the responsibility of carrying its deeper themes of displacement, deracination and dual identity to a new audience. I looked again at the Tennyson quotation she had selected to preface her life's greatest work - 'T'is not too late to seek a newer world'.

I decided that I would move from London to Mumbai and look at these themes anew in the country of her birth and mine. Two months after I did, seven blasts on suburban trains claimed 209 lives and injured 714. The first anniversary of the 11th of July 2006 is just around the corner. The threat of terror and its actuality has been brought 'home' to many of us wherever we live.

A Hindi feature film based on The Far Pavilions is my response to the Asymmetric Threats that led me here. Working on the script has been an invigorating journey, a renewal. It is as if I have finally found the right medium for a newly shaped story at just the right time. I have unearthed a new, some might say 'modern' protagonist -- an embittered Afghan warrior who unknowingly adopts his enemy's son, only to discover he is British born. At such a personal level, the Indo-British-Afghan conflict can be absorbed simply and powerfully, the audience made to wonder if this man of war will ever accept him as his own.

If film makers, educationalists and people of influence do not take measured steps to remind audiences, in the East and West, that a great number of the world's current crises are rooted in an imperial past, the opportunity to learn from the Asymmetric Threats and mistakes of yesteryear will be lost.

A feature film allows the audience to go on a particular and human journey not an ideological one. The Far Pavilions is a story set 150 years ago. It allows us to look at ourselves and wonder if much has changed in the patterns of behaviour that escalate into desperate conflict.

In the increasingly popular and wide reaching medium of Hindi film, such a story would be seen by tens of millions. Ideology, fundamentalism, disinformation and annihilation of 'the other' are the antagonistic forces that challenge the protagonist on the road to personal fulfilment. If, finally, he manages to resist, then such a film will demonstrate how at least one radicalised heart can begin to heal.

With warm regards

Michael E Ward


We look forward to your further thoughts, observations and views. Thank you.

Best wishes

For and on behalf of DK Matai, Chairman, Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance (ATCA)

ATCA: The Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance is a philanthropic expert initiative founded in 2001 to resolve complex global challenges through collective Socratic dialogue and joint executive action to build a wisdom based global economy. Adhering to the doctrine of non-violence, ATCA addresses asymmetric threats and social opportunities arising from climate chaos and the environment; radical poverty and microfinance; geo-politics and energy; organised crime & extremism; advanced technologies -- bio, info, nano, robo & AI; demographic skews and resource shortages; pandemics; financial systems and systemic risk; as well as transhumanism and ethics. Present membership of ATCA is by invitation only and has over 5,000 distinguished members from over 100 countries: including several from the House of Lords, House of Commons, EU Parliament, US Congress & Senate, G10's Senior Government officials and over 1,500 CEOs from financial institutions, scientific corporates and voluntary organisations as well as over 750 Professors from academic centres of excellence worldwide.

The views presented by individual contributors are not necessarily representative of the views of ATCA, which is neutral. Please do not forward or use the material circulated without permission and full attribution.

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