Of valour and poetic discourse on morals

Of valour and poetic discourse on morals

Having witnessed the play Arjun ka Beta by The Films and Theatre Society (FTS) almost a year back, the viewer, acquainted with the epic Mahabharata, feels that the character of Krishna hasn’t been given its due justice. The writer-director, Atul Satya Koushik, mindful of the same while re-writing the script, provides Krishna with not just a voice but also a popular face – Nitish Bhardwaj, the actor who played Krishna in BR Chopra’s TV series Mahabharata.

Staged as a new play titled Chakrvyuh, the narrative reminds one of Arjun ka Beta
repeatedly. The poetic dialogues, similar props and familiar action sequences make it difficult to believe that the play is a new production. Even the director admits, “Seventy per cent of the script is the same, but more prominence has been given to the philosophies surrounding the ‘chakrvyuh’ in Mahabharata and the character of Krishna.”

With dramatic lights and loud recorded music (comprising shankhnad or sound of the conch), the curtains rise for the play Chakrvyuh. A sole actor i.e Krishna (Nitish Bhardwaj) turns around, faces the audience and breaks into a long monologue.

His dialogu­es have references to not just Mahabharata but even Rama­yana. The repetition of certain verses (of the poetic narrative) invites applause from the audience in this section. But in the last scene where Krishna consoles Uttara (Abhimanyu’s widow) with his words and renders a sermon for all present on the stage, the Delhi audience overwhel­med by the rendition, applau­ds each and every dialogue.

In between, there are fragmented scenes representing the plotting of the chakrvyuh, the execution of the plan and the cruelty of Kauravas in brutally murdering the 16-year-old Abhimanyu through immoral tactics. The tale told collectively by these scenes is not new. Therefore, its not-so-engaging presentation dissipates the viewer’s interest.

The inclusion of an imaginary scenario – where Draupadi questions Yudhishthir for not asking the sacrifice of one of her sons – makes for an interesting insight into the director’s perspectives of
the story. More such scenes would have added to the overall experience. Also, the use of a dialect similar to khadi boli is used majorly by Uttara and stands out in contrast to the language spoken by the male actors.

Koushik says that this was deliberate. “Kings and princes were sent to gurukuls and handled political affairs. Their language became refined thr­o­ugh their interactions with the leaders of other states. On the contrary, the princesses never got a chance to mingle in the same way. Therefore I have tried to show them in a different light to make it more realistic,” says Koushik.  
      
A special mention must be made of the female char­a­cters – Uttara (Ankita Juneja), Subhadra (Latika Jain) and Draupadi (Kanika Sood), who raise pertinent questions about the actions of the men in Mahabharata
.
The performances of the female actors in the later scenes leaves the audience yearning for more.     What enhances the perfor­mance, however, is the able use of lights at Kamani Auditorium (where the play was staged recently). Operated by the director himself, the lights, along with the smoke, give goosebumps as one watches the depiction of this ever-popular tale.

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