The story of light

Ugly consequences A scene from the play   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Dharamvir Bharati’s “Andha Yug”, a verse play, was first directed by Satyadev Dubey for Theatre Unit Mumbai in 1960. E. Alkazi directed it for the National School of Drama Repertory in 1964, staged on the lawn of Kotla Ferozeshah which catapulted the play to national eminence as one of the greatest contemporary Indian play in epic style. Subsequently, it was revived by the NSD Repertory. Satyadev Dubey revived it which was presented at Nehru Shatabdi Natya Samaroh in 1989. Over the years, “Andha Yug” has been widely shown in different parts of the country. In 2011, Bhanu Bharti directed it for the Sahitya Kala Parishad, Delhi which was presented in the open air against the backdrop of the ruins of Kotla Ferozeshah. So far, the productions by Alkzai, Satyadev Dubey and Bhanu Bharti are considered most definitive.

Innovative piece

Its recent production by Shoonya, under the direction of Rama Yadav, at the Shri Ram Centre is an innovative theatrical piece, illustrating the fact that “Andha Yug” could be adapted to diverse presentational styles. In pursuance of evolving an experimental theatre, Rama is using bare stage with minimal property and a large cast which is used as stage décor as well as visuals to convey the thematic content of the play to minimise the use of dialogue as the main expressive means. She achieved remarkable success in the use of mass scenes in her previous production of Bhisham Sahni's “Hanush”. But in Bhanu Bharti’s “Katha Kahi Ek Jale Ped Neh”, she was not able to impart vitality and intensity to the production and transform the mass scene into visual imagery. Her “Andha Yug” bears the stamp of her distinctive presentational style. The play under review captures the spectacle of devastation, fatally wounded and defeated soldiers and dense gloom prevailing in the defeated camp of the Kauravas. The Padavas have emerged victorious after the 18-day war.

It raises the question whether the Mahabharata war was fought to establish Dharma? Are the Pandavas really victorious?

Have they truly followed Dharma while launching fieriest battle against their adversary with the blessing of Krishna who was by their side without any arms? On the other hand, his whole army fought with the Kauravas.

The pall of dense dark descends on both the camps. The play severely warns humanity that it should never resort to nuclear war which will result in holocaust – destroying both the victor and the vanquished. “This is the story of light through the medium of the blind.”

Most of the characters have been vested with contemporary allusion, especially the characters of Ashwatthama and Yuyutsu. Burning with rage, Ashwatthama is metamorphosed into a brute to avenge the death of his father Dronacharya by blatant disregard for rule of the war resorted by Yudhishthir considered to be the epitome of truth. This act of betrayal is accomplished at the behest of Krishna. Ashwatthama challenges Krishna, destroys Pandavas camp, killing all the sons of Daraupadi. Not satisfied, he uses Brahmashtra to destroy the womb of Uttara who is bearing in her the son of Abhimanyu.

Gandhari's curse

Vyasa calls him Naradham and Krishna curses him to live for eternity with his grotesque body perpetually oozing pus and blood, writhing in pain. Another significant character is Yuyutsu who believed in Krishna, deserted his own clan of the Kauravas fought against his own brothers.

After the war, he finds himself disowned by both the camps; his own people terrified with him; they consider him as satan and messenger of death and his mother Gandhari despised him. Disillusioned and his faith in Krishna being shattered, he commits suicide as a resolution of his dilemma.

As a result of Gandhari's curse, Krishna is to die like an ordinary mortal to be killed by an ordinary hunter and his entire clan to kill one another seized by frenzy.

Towards the end, characters wander in a world suffering from agnosticism. Rama’s mass scenes aptly capture grimness of the battle scene with cries of pain by wounded soldiers, limping back home, some dying on the way. The battle field is full of human bodies. Her attempt to create forest scene with chirping birds seems to be simplistic.

At times the mass scenes could not be vested with mounting tension resulting in the wavering of the attention of audience. However, it acquired momentum after Ashwatthama indulges in destruction like a mad dog with his body consumed with revenge. Rama has cast eight performers to portray different stages of the growth of the character of Ashwatthama. This kind of experiment hardly gives performers room to build the character and internalise its emotional turmoil and psychological complexity. This device gives us only fragmented images of one of the greatest characters in the contemporary Indian theatre.

Amit as Yuyutsu reveals the dilemma of his character admirably. Sharmila as Gandhari seems to be aptly cast performer. Her Gandhari slowly and slowly unveils the anguish, sorrow and bitterness, delivering the lines with conviction.

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Printable version | Apr 21, 2021 10:12:20 AM |

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