The Curse of Urvashi, a new play, presents the idea of right versus wrong
What’s right for some, might be wrong for others. But who decides and has the final say? The Curse of Urvashi, by Chennai-based Theatre Nisha, explores these questions in the context of the Mahabharata. Based on the Virata Parva, the fourth of the 18 books of the epic, the play looks at an episode from the life of Arjuna when the Pandavas are in the final incognito year of their exile.
The premise is that Arjuna, the warrior Pandava, also considered one of the most upright, uses
deception and trickery in his battles. But during an incident when Arjun is confronted by the apsara Urvashi, he is questioned by the latter for his approach. “Why is it that such a great warrior resorts to ‘unmanliness’? Arjuna hides behind rules and regulations and does not make up his mind,” says V Balakrishnan, the director of the play.
During two instances in the Mahabharata, Arjuna under the garb of dharma (law) turns down Urvashi and princess Uttara’s proposals, calling them mother and daughter. Urvashi responds with a curse that turns him into a woman. “The play explores the traditional concept of purushatva (hardness) that is close to the concept of yang from the Chinese philosophy of yin and yang. Is Arjuna doing the right thing? This is what will be looked at,” explains Balakrishnan.
Though a mythological play, Balakrishnan explains that the costumes aren’t elaborate and the set is an empty stage for easier movement. It is the plot that is in focus. “The concept and context is mythological but the play has been designed in a realistic manner with costumes that are a mix of contemporary and tribal outfits. Also, the other element is that there is no gender specification and a few male roles are played by women,” offers Balakrishnan.
So what happens when Arjuna’s curse reverses? Older and wiser, the warrior reflects on what has happened so far and ponders over the curses. Balakrishnan says the intention behind staging this play is to re-explore this question of what’s right and wrong in today’s time.
Rs 200. May 19 and 20. At Ranga Shankara, JP Nagar