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Second sight: Telling the Mahabharata from a different perspective

Second sight: Telling the Mahabharata from a different perspective  

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Abhishek Majumdar’s new play Kaumudi, is about the rite of passage, centred on three philosophical questions

Abhishek Majumdar’s new play Kaumudi (Moonlight), a play in Hindi, using the “moonlit timeless night” when Krishna delivers his sermon to Arjuna as its central trope, is about a relationship between a son and his ageing father. The play is set in a theatre Allahabad of the 1960s, over three days. The father-son duo play Eklavya’s ghost and Abhimanyu, respectively. The father, who is a great actor and has almost lost his sight, is at his final three performances.

Through this story, Abhishek explores several issues, from caste injustices, the passing over knowledge from father to son, and even of theatre. “This play is hinged on three central questions of philosophy. The first is, whose life is more valuable, an older or a younger person’s? The second is an exploration of the personal versus the public ethic. And the third is about Art itself. Does it have a function? Do we make art or does art make us?” says Abhishek, an award-winning playwright.

The play has been inspired by two texts: Anand’s Malayalam novel Vyasam Vigneswaram and Jorge Luis Borges’ essay Blindness. “One of my teachers had recommended Anand’s novel. When I read the book, I wondered what would happen had the conversation between Abhimanyu and Eklavya’s ghost been extended. Borges’ Blindness is about his own blindness and because of which he develops a whole new relationship with words.”

The play is also a telling of The Mahabharata through the Dalit point of view. “In The Mahabharata it is said each time a lesson is delivered, a truth is revealed. But a Dalit would question if that’s really the truth.” The play is a reflection too for Abhishek, particularly with regard to theatre. “Does theatre have a meaning or is it our ego being massaged? Whose theatre is it—that of the audience or of the practitioner? And the process involved in taking a story to the audience.”

The script has been written both in dialogue and in verse and borrows from theatre forms. “There are references from my memories of watching The Ramayana being performed as a child. Later, in Karnataka, I have watched several Yakshagana performances.” Abhishek says Kaumudi is quite different from his other plays, which include Gasha, Rizwaan and Harlesden High Street. “It was very important for me to move to a subject of philosophy. And I wanted to write the play in Hindi.” Abhishek mulled over the play for some years, and wrote it eight months ago.

Abhishek speaks of his collaborations with his actors and production team. “Kumud Mishra is a terrific actor. I had always wanted to work with him, and I wrote the play keeping him in mind. Gopal Dutt and Shubrojyoti Barat were great too. Sandeep Shikhar’s role is quite different from the ones he has essayed in my other plays. Anmol Vellani has done the light design, which is excellent. Abhijeet Tambe has done the sound design, and plays live off stage.”

Kaumudi, presented by Riad Mahmood Education and Arts Foundation and Indian Ensemble, will be staged till April 13 at 7.30 pm, on April 13 there will be shows at 3.30 pm and 7.30 pm, at Ranga Shankara. Tickets are priced at Rs. 200 and are available at the venue, indianstage.in and bookmyshow.com.

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Printable version | May 22, 2018 1:53:07 PM | http://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/events/an-exploration/article5882790.ece