Karna like never before - Indianostrum’s to stage Kunti Karna in Chennai after four years
Indianostrum’s upcoming production explores Karna’s complex conflict-ridden persona
Ever since Koumarane Valavane, founder of the theatre group Indianostrum, staged Kunti Karna for the first time in 2012 in Manjakkudi, the play has become one of their most recognisable productions. With over 100 shows done already, it was most recently presented at the eighth Theatre Olympics in New Delhi, organised by National School of Drama. Next week, Koumarane, who has worked under well-known French stage director Ariane Mnouchkine, will stage Kunti Karna after a long gap, in collaboration with Chennai Art Theatre. It was last staged in 2014 at the Rukmini Festival, at Kalakshetra.
One of the most popular stories in the Mahabharata, the life of Karna fascinated Koumarane. However, for the play, he wanted to focus on the inner turmoil faced by Karna,who struggled to battle issues like internal conflict and uncertainty. “Most of the stories based on him dwell on his generosity and his loyalty to Duryodhana. I, instead, focused on his conflict-ridden persona,” he says, adding, “The story of the abandoned child who desperately seeks identity and struggles with class and caste issues without knowing where he comes from, is a common story anybody can relate to. And, because he is so complex, there are many ways of looking at the same person. Hence it is still relevant.”
Abandoned as a child, Karna came to know of his true lineage from his real mother Kunti, on the eve of his duel with Arjuna, his own brother. Elaborating on the play, Koumarane says, “It explores Karna’s solitude and highlights the struggle between his inner weakness and outer strength. Many versions of the same story exist simply because it is a timeless tale — it is universal in its plot, characterisation and relationships. Its characters are multi-dimensional, human, flawed and complex, just like Karna.” He further reveals that he was inspired by Rabindranath Tagore’s poem, Karna Kunti Sambad, and French writer Jean-Claude Carriere’s translation of the Mahabharata.
Introducing the cast, he says, “All my actors are full time theatre professionals. The production began with Cordis, Avinash, Vasanth and myself. Over the years, a couple of roles have also been performed by others like Kali and Santhosh.” As for the sounds in the play, the director has kept it minimal. “I particularly avoided the use of music here and tried to evoke the emotion through dialogue, the natural sound of water, and even silence!” he says, adding that since his cast is trained in the traditional martial art form of kalari, the play has been designed with kalari movements. “It turned out to be the best medium of expression for us,” he says.
June 30 to July 1. At Rukmini Arangam, Kalakshetra. Open to all. Details: 98414-95497.