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KARNABHARAM
(the anguish of Karnna)

Design and Direction : Chandradasan

Text: by Bhasa (500 BC)
Translation: Kavalam Narayana Panikker
Music : Ramesh Varma
Light Design: Jayakumar
Duration of the play: 55 mts.

This short play projects the mortal anguish of a man unsure of his identity. Karnna the protagonist is heroic and pathetic at the same time as he tries to find his place between the mocking and adulation of social forces on one side and the taunting challenges of fate on the other.

The treatment of the play takes it beyond reality, beyond caricature of farce into a realm that transcends the space and time and gets related to the social realities of today. Karna lingers in one’s consciousness as the symbol of Universal man in search of his own self-the ultimate dilemma of existence.

This production synthesizes traditional forms, like Koodiyattam, Kadhakali, Kalarippayattu, Padayani, Sopanasageetham etc., to form a modern theatrical idiom in harmony with the cultural heritage of the land. This is the result of the search for an indigenous Indian theatre. The style of acting, movement pattern and choreography, music and costumes are thus, modern and at the same time traditional. A unique lighting is used to add to the theatrical ecstasy. It is an actors play which breaks away from set patterns.

Story line

The time and space of action is from the eleventh day in the warfield of Mahabharatha.

According to the Indian theatre tradition, the play starts with Nandi of the Suthradhara which is interrupted by sound echoed from the war. A warrior from Duryodhana calls Karna to fight for his side as Bhishma has fallen.

The great warrior Karna, the son of Soorya is seen distributed and depressed in the warfield instead of being mighty and powerful. The play analyses the reasons.

He is worried of his birth, his caste and his social status. Whether he is the son of Kunthy and Soorya, or Radha and Sutha? The mockery and adulation of the society moulds his person and fate. For a while he is moved by the meaninglessness of the war where men kill each other. He says that irrespective of his win or loss, war is a real waste. This vision adds to his turbulence.

Karna tells Salyar about the curse given by his Guru, Parasurama. This episode is inacted by correlating the narration of the present with the inacting of the past. The astra advised by Parasurama is found power less at the needed hour.

The entry of Indra disguised as a Brahmin, follows, who cunningly takes away the divine Kavacha and kundala from Karnna. He understands that the whole plot is master minded by the Shrewd Krishna and accepts his fate in return a messenger from Indra offers a powerful weapon Vimala which can destroy one among the pandavas. Karna is not willing to accept a return for his generosity. But he messenger insists ’This is the word of a Brahmin’ which Karna accept.

Accepting the challenge from Arjuna and Krishna the revitalized Karna proceed to this ultimate fate heroically. Thus ends Bhasa’s play Karnabharan.

 


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