Being Karna

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NOVEL INTERPRETATION: Margi Madhu presents an adapted version of `Karnabharam.'
NOVEL INTERPRETATION: Margi Madhu presents an adapted version of `Karnabharam.'


Margi Madhu adapted Bhasa’s ‘Karnabharam’ into the Koodiyattam format and breathed life into the character.

The timelessness of Mahakavi Bhasa’s themes continues to keep his plays fresh. He dramatised basic issues through unforgettable characters drawn mainly from the epics and the Puranas.

Most of them have become archetypes of drama, but still remain people to whom we can relate . His plays present scenarios that are instantly recognisable today.

Bhasa’s ‘Karnabharam,’ present in different versions like theatre, was adapted to Koodiyattam by Margi Madhu.

This play, staged under the aegis of the International Centre for Koodiyattam, Tripunithura, stood out for brilliant acting by Madhu and some really emotional dramatic moments.


“The beauty of Bhasa is that he allows you to explore and interpret. There are layers and layers of meanings, different dimensions that one can work on in every work of his. When I ventured to work on the ‘attaprakaram’ of ‘Karnabharam’ I found it so full of possibilities,” says Madhu.

The Koodiyattam version of the play was special for its many dramatic moments. Madhu made optimum use of the ‘pakarnattam’ technique to unravel the mind of Karna, his feelings, his thoughts.

The play begins after the death of Dronacharya. Karna, along with Salyar, prepares to leave for the battlefield of Kurukshetra.

Madhu demonstrated amazing ability in the ‘pakarnatam’ of different characters. Along with Karna, he etched powerful portrayals of Duryodhana and Arjuna and sensitive ‘abhinaya’ in the delineation of Kunti. Some of the moments, like the one where Karna meets Kunti, were simply mind-boggling with Madhu turning in a superb performance.

This classic work revolves around the fall of the mighty hero, Karna. It also projects the inner conflict of the man when confronted with his beloved ones in the battlefield. Karna is endowed with supreme qualities. A hero who fails for no fault of his own.

Madhu’s adaptation stands out for one sequence. In the Koodiyattam version, Karna, on the way to the battlefield, imagines beating Arjuna and killing him in battle. Duryodhana hails the victory. The whole scene is enacted. This is such a natural inclusion and it makes Karna resemble any other ordinary mortal, prone to hallucinations and dreams. Even the most heroic of people can be flawed. They are redeemed by elements that allow us to understand them.


This is what Madhu attempts in his characterisation of Karna. With that one moment he has managed to encapsulate the essence of his version of the play.

The other elements of the original play are in place. The disturbed Karna, gnawed with worries by the mystery of his birth, his social status, the meaningless of war, are all analysed.

Karna, who sheds his doubts, takes on the might of Arjuna and succumbs to his fate. The death scene in this Koodiyattam version is as elaborate as that of Bali in ‘Balivadham.’

This exposition of Bhasa’s famous play gives it new life, enhances its scope and is certainly a valued addition to the Koodiyattam repertoire.



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