Dvija preview: Foremost among warriors

V Balakrishnan’s Dvija tells the story of Drona from The Mahabharatha, and his voyage from abject poverty to kingship

August 07, 2019 04:59 pm | Updated August 25, 2019 06:37 am IST

For 70 minutes, standing solo on stage, playwright, director and actor, V Balakrishnan uses Drona to tell a universal story on the conflict of choice in the fight for survival. Dvija raises pertinent questions on this idea and uses the blanket of mythology, to narrate the story of an extraordinary but flawed man. Dvija ’s creator, V Balakrishnan speaks about what inspired the play, and the pleasures of being solo on stage.

You wrote Dvija fascinated by a line in the Bhagavad Gita where Duryodhana places Drona above Bheeshma. How did the play find its genesis?

The Mahabharata has always lured me to create dramatic content from its many stories. While reading the first chapter of the Bhagavad Gita , the shloka where Duryodhana counts Drona as the foremost among his warriors, I was excited to discover one such incident among others, where Duryodhana begs Drona post a game of dice to never desert them. This was the beginning of an urge to tell his story, the story of a man from ‘rags to riches’, from abject poverty to kingship. The pertinent question was what did he have to forego, sacrifice and close his eyes to, in order to rise to such heights? This formed the seed for the plot.

What about Drona fascinated you to devise a standalone play?

Drona does not fascinate in the average sense of the word. He is a flawed character; he plots and executes his vengeance with perfection, he uses mass destructive weapons against common soldiers, his attachment to his son is extreme, he is almost Machiavellian in his plots to humiliate Drupada and to refuse the education of the art of war to Hastinapura’s enemies. Drona is a lot of clichés; he stands out as a character very difficult to break down into compartments, and there he becomes a fascinating illusion to be created.

The play brings to fore the conflict of choice that not only Drona faced but also a universal struggle. Why is Dvija as a play especially important now?

In our pursuit of social change, we forget the domino effect — it is the individual who can make the greatest change and to wait for the entire community to join hands to try and achieve the same, is mostly futile. We are what we do; our character is the sum total of our actions, and not our stifled response to the laws of morality and “righteousness”. Dvija gives rise to the thought that if we don’t do what we are supposed to when we must do them, then we are offenders of history, and will never be forgiven.

You’ve often turned to mythology and literature to tell universal human stories. Tell us why…

The truth is its essence is sustained for a long time, it provides objectivity and to associate with the endeavours of a larger-than-life character empowers us to face malignancies of the human world with pride and courage.

You are Dvija ’s writer, director and performer. Does it help you to be able to internalise the character and the underlying script to be able to deliver the best?

It helps me best to work alone; like the first storyteller in the human world. Sometimes additional actors are a distraction and can push one to create palatable aesthetics rather than a platform to tell the truth. In this production, I too have succumbed to the lure of rich embellishments and I am having two fascinating artists accompanying me on stage with their chosen vocations of music and dance. I do have my whole company watching the rehearsals to coax me from moments of self-indulgence.

What inspired the title Dvija ?

Dvija is from Dvijottama, the best of the twice born, a name ascribed to Drona in The Mahabharata .

Dvija will be staged in Alliance Francaise of Madras, Nungambakkam on August 30, 7.30 pm

Tickets available on  www.insider.in  and The Hindu's Theatre Fest page

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