Movies

Puneet Issar is still mighty 'Duryodhan' for viewers

Hyderabadis who loved Puneet Issar’s depiction of Duryodhan, will be happy to know he loves the city. Yes, for the actor who owes his popularity to playing Duryodhan in BR Chopra’s series Mahabharat on television 30 years ago, Hyderabad holds a special place in his heart. The reason: “was born in Secunderabad, at the Military hospital; it is my janm bhoomi,” he reveals.

His popularity hasn’t waned over the decades and now he reprises his role of Duryodhan in a play Mahabharat that he has written and directed. Felicity Theatre presented this stage version of the Mahabharats in Hyderabad recently. “I have Duryodhan in my blood,” he says and illustrates with an example . “During casting, Chopra saab (BR Chopra) wanted me to play Bheem but I told him, ‘No sir; I have read the Mahabharat and I want to play the most important character of Duryodhan, the antagonist.’ Without him, Mahabharat would not have happened.”

Puneet Issar

Puneet Issar   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

With exquisite costumes and a vibrant choreography, the theatrical production highlights the unique friendship between Duryodhan and Karan. “Duryodhan does everything with passion and honesty. He has vices but also has pure emotion for his friend. For someone who doesn’t want to give even an inch of land to Pandavas, he does not mind giving a kingdom to his friend Karan,” he says adding complexities experienced during childhood were responsible in making Duryodhan into what he was. “The psychological implications are hazardous; there are reasons for what the man has become.”

Having created this production two years ago, Puneet, who just turned 60 last month, has travelled all over India with it. As it races towards its golden jubilee, Hyderabad was a favourite stopover. “Hyderabad is the land of mythological!” he says and shares a special reason for staging it here. “Whatever I have learnt is from Bapu garu (renowned director late Bapu).” Puneet, who had watched Bapu’s Sita Kalyanam calls him the ‘Godfather of Indian cinema.’ “I respect him so much and had the privilege to work with him in Sri Bhagavatham, for ETV. It was like going to school and learning under a teacher. I watched how he sketched his shots, created beautiful paintings and then shoot.” Having done many films in Telugu he has a special connection with the Telugu film industry too. “I have acted along with Chiranjeevi garu for Indra, Master and Tagore and with Balakrishna and NTR also. All those films have been hits.”

To play Duryodhan on stage, this 60-year-old actor lost 22 kilograms, trained in martial arts and cross weights so that nonecould say, ‘Arre yeh buddha ho gaya.’ “Other artistes are young — some, half my age and some even younger — so I had to give them a run for their money. To be Duryodhan, one needs focus and discipline.”

There are plans to stage this three-hour production overseas too. “Mahabharat is a capsule with dos and don’ts in life. Every house has a Duryodhana and fathers like Dhritarashtra wanting their sons to rule the land are present everywhere. The story will be relevant for another 50,000 years. Today’s young generation might not want to watch 94 episodes of the old Mahabharat at one time. We have tightened the story and are presenting it in an entertaining format on stage.”

In the pipeline for Puneet are films, television projects, web series and writing a new play, “There is lots to look forward to,” he smiles.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2020 2:47:32 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/puneet-issar-is-still-mighty-duryodhan-for-viewers/article30328277.ece

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