In the history of contemporary Indian theatre two modern classic – Dharamvir Bharati’s “Andha Yug” and “Tughlaq” by Girish Karnad – have captured the imagination of the audience. Over the years, these plays have been directed by our tallest directors like E. Alkazi and Bhanu Bharti as well as by amateur theatre groups all over the country. Whenever theatre lovers come to know about the staging of these plays they throng to the auditorium. In 2011, Bhanu directed “Andha Yug”, which was presented by Sahitya Kala Parishad at the lawns of Ferozshah Kotla for six days. It was witnessed by more than 10,000 audiences. Such is craze for this play. Similar exciting evening was witnessed when “Andha Yug” was staged by Kshitij Theatre group formed by some graduate of National School of Drama in 1987, with Bharti Sharma as its leading light, at Shri Ram centre this past week. Kshitij has produced several memorable plays. “Andha Yug” is yet another feather in its cap.
Directed by Bharti Sharma, a sensitive actress and seasoned stage director, she endeavoured to stage the entire script editing here and there, deleting the pilgrimage of Gandhari, Kunti and Dhritrashtra to the Himalayas where they perish in the fire. The duration of her production is slightly more than two hours. If the script is staged in its entirety the playing time may take three hours. In recent memory only once the complete text was staged by the late Nirmal Pandey, stage and popular Bollywood actor. Most of the productions end with Gandhari’s curse on Krishna that he will be killed ‘at the hands off common hunter in thickest like a dog.” And Krishna accepts it with his reverence, calling Gandhari as mother with the most affectionate tone.
Here we watch two tired and frustrated Praharis, guards, their disgusting and humiliating position, guarding a near-deserted place which is mourning the death of soldiers and the sons of Gandhari and Dhritarashtra. Duryodhana is brutally killed by Bhima resorting to perfidy. Enters Ashwatthama mad with anger to avenge the death of his father Dronacharya who became the victim of deception. He directs his fire of intense hatred towards Krishna considering him the source of Adharma which enabled the Pandavas to win the war. Ashwatthama enters the camp of the Pandavas, kills the sons of Draupadi while they are sleeping and finally set fire to the camp. Not satisfied with his beastly acts, he turns his fire of revenge at the widow of Abhimanyu who is carrying his infant in her womb. He uses a deadly weapon to destroy her womb. However, Krishna prevents the catastrophe, cursing Ashwatthama to take the form of grotesque with constantly flowing pus mixed with blood to wander until eternity.
Bharti Sharma’s production depicts the Pandavas’ rule headed by Yudhishtra who is no more an embodiment of truth and Dharma but a crazy ruler unable to come to terms with the chaotic situation prevailing in the kingdom. The play ends with a scene where the soul of Yuyutsu, the killer of Krishna and Ashwatthama interact and discuss the dilemma they are confronting. The director has not been able to depict the dilemma of Yuyutsu in depth. He is a very significant character in the play. Convinced with the stand of Krishna to fight for establishing the rule of truth, Yuyutsu deserted his Kaurava brothers and fought for the Pandavas. Now with the total destruction of his brothers and their army, he is disillusioned. Completely alienated by his people, despised and considered as a messenger of death, he commits suicides. The director has also enacted the encounter between Shiva and Ashwatthama before the merciless killing of the Pandavas in their camp as the theatrical expression inspired by Kathagayan. This tends to be a patch.
In fact, to enact the scenes after Gandhari’s curse, the play takes the form of anticlimax. The production becomes, weak in its dramatic sweep. The highlight of the production is the imaginatively designed costumes and the movements of members of chorus who render poems in tuneful voices, commenting on the scenes and carrying forward the storyline.
The members of the cast give admirable performances. Two senior members of the group – Mohit Tripathi as Ashwatthama and Bharti Sharma as Gandhari transformed their scenes into tour de force. Mohit captures the inner fire and hatred of his character with remarkable emotional power and intensity, making his portrait memorable. In the past also he has given brilliant performances but his present rendition surpasses all his previous works as an actor.