Retelling of stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharatha, from the point of view of marginalised characters, and in ways that make explicit the relevance of these ancient epics to our times is something poet and playwright Dr. H.S. Venkateshamurthy has been engaged in for quite some time. Many of his plays are monologues where these marginalised characters, particularly women, occupy the entire stage and introspect on their lives. With his most recent play Aahata, he adds one more to the genre. The play, produced by Benaka, was staged at Rangashankara. Directed by Krishnamurthy Kavatar, the play was enacted by actor-director T.S. Nagabharana. Aahata, a play based on the Mahabharatha, explores the plight of a common man (perhaps, the most marginalised of all the characters in the epic) who gets drawn into the power game between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Since there is no such character in the epic, the playwright invents one.
Representing the masses
The protagonist of the play, Rudrachari, an artisan and an actor, represents the millions who come to town seeking a better future. His arrival in Hastinapura attracts immediate notice because of his close resemblance to its ruler, Duryodhana and this leads him to the biggest break in his career as an actor, of playing the King's double. But this role costs him his life, his love and even his identity. Once he dons the role, there is no getting out of it. While the real Duryodhana sits in some secret hiding place and plans the military campaign, it is his double Rudrachari who faces the dangers of war. At the end one is left to wonder whether the man with the broken thighs, lying on the banks of Vyshampayana lake is Duryodhana himself or another Rudrachari. The play obviously has its genesis in the story about Hitler's double, who is also supposed to have been an actor. (Prasanna has even written a play about it) Though the play voices powerful anti-war sentiments and evokes one's sympathies for victims like Rudrachari, Duryodhana's portrayal as the ruthless dictator is somehow not quite convincing. The parallels appear a little forced. The solo play is a challenge both to the director and the actor. Kavatar makes ingenious use of the metallic sculpture of Duryodhana, (the object which the playwright uses as the link between the protagonist and the King), making this detachable statue on wheels, serve as a substitute for all the absentee characters in the play. But the frequent dismembering of the statue and the actor addressing his lines to its parts appears rather amateurish. The same is true of the actor's struggle with unseen hands and his change of positions to indicate change of character. Nagabharana, though more used to directing than being directed, does a competent job, using his powerful voice to advantage. LAXMI CHANDRASHEKAR