Ultimate Kurukshetra, a new play, takes a look at the Mahabharata with a twist
This adapted extract of the Mahabharata, Ultimate Kurukshetra, looks at the epic from the perspective of its lesser-known characters. But, it isn't a serious, long-drawn out drama. This comes with a promise of being an outrageous comedy that's set against the backdrop of elephant bums. Sounds irreverent? Well, not really, that's because the play is set in a battle-field and the minor characters who are at the last line of defence offer their point of view to the audience. While it may sound like the play is going down a frivolous route with a serious epic, the playwright, Ram Ganesh Kamatham, who won the Sultan Padamsee Award for the play in 2011, clears the doubt.
"It has taken 14 years to bring this production to stage. As Mahabharata is not easy to crack, I scripted it at various residencies and by 2010, a first draft was ready. Though it had several readings in Mumbai and Bengaluru, there were no takers. Finally, I thought it's been 14 years, and I must produce it," says Ram who has chosen a tiny incident from the battle of Kurukshetra as the starting point for his play.
"It's about these minor characters who are at the periphery of the events that unfold. What happens to them and how their lives get affected by the happenings, is what is explored in the play," he adds. The six characters that feature in the narrative are Sudarshana, a warrior, Adi, his charioteer, Daksha, a mahout, Maya, a courtesan, Vyasa, the author of Mahabharata and Yuyutsu, the only Kaurava prince to switch sides over to the Pandavas. The story is built on why Yuyutsu changes sides. During the course of his dilemma, the prince meets various warriors who are undergoing a similar thought process. While the other characters deal with their own circumstances.
"There are big social dilemmas we are dealing with currently, like the state of women and urbanisation. We have tried to infer these in this play. How were women represented in the Mahabharata, and how devastation is reeked by development," explains Ram, who is also directing the play. While this might sound heavy, Ram, in the same breath, adds that the play is a real treat to watch for its comedy. "We are playing with this idea. While the characters' stay within the mythological milieu, this is an epic comedy," he says.
So cuss words are sprinkled through out but don't mean to offend anyone. Also, the physical movements, of using weaponry is what makes the play visually scintillating. The cast includes some prominent names like Anil Abraham, Anirudh Acharya, Harish Seshadri, Mallika Prasad Sinha, Noel Manasseh and Ram himself in this Actors Ensemble India Forum production.
Rs 200. January 6, 3.30 and 7.30 pm. At Ranga Shankara, JP Nagar