Saturday evening saw us trooping to see the play Chakravyuh at Rang Sharda Mandir.

If you know your Mahabharata, I don’t have to go into a ‘Ramayan’ about the meaning and significance of Chakravyuh.  For the uninitiated, the Mahabharata is one of India’s two great epics and Chakravyuh is one of the war stratagems employed (albeit dishonestly) in the great war between the cousins.

Now, to the play.

Chakravyuh takes us to the battlefield on the thirteenth day of the great Mahabharata war. The play opens on Nitish Bharadwaj – as he returns to his most celebrated role – that of Krishna – made famous with his role in the B R Chopra serial Mahabharata. It’s refreshing to see Nitish Bharadwaj on stage and undoubtedly his presence as Krishna takes the level of the play many notches higher.

Written in verse, the cast does full justice to the delivery of dialogues – Abhimanyu’s role was well enacted by Lalit Bhardwaj.  Uttara’s part was also convincing played as she plaintively asks if Abhimanyu will ever return. The script is tight and the action scenes well enacted. It remains quite engaging with some intense moments – especially those of Abhimanyu’s final moments and that of Uttara’s lament as she realizes that she is now going to be a widow and a single mother.

What took away from a really good experience however were a couple of things.

First, after stating that no late entry will be allowed, much disturbance was caused by viewers coming in late and disturbing the audience.

CHAKRAVYUH2There was also some change in time from 9 pm to 8 pm (odd, isn’t it?) which is why there was another disruption caused in the middle when a whole lot of late entrants came in. This is a kind of play where you do need to have your attention wholly on stage and this kind of disturbance takes away from the play.

The second bit that failed a great show is the lighting. While the play starts with the 12th night as Krishna introspects on the battlefield, it fails to create even that much light for you to engage with the character on stage. Throughout the lighting failed to do what is should – light up the right parts and the characters.

The third bit – and maybe it was the auditorium – that marred the experience was the sound quality. Most of the times the music overpowered the speaking parts or simply was disturbing. At other times, you could not hear the actors well enough to get the full impact of the dialogues.

All these are minor and easily remedied of course. (Hopefully the production values will improve in subsequent performances.)

I strongly believe that playwrights, directors and indeed the actors on stage have put in hours of labour to bring something of a magical quality to the stage – enacting it live for you and you alone. As an audience, if we cannot respect that I think we should sit at home and watch Netflix or Amazon Prime while responding to Whatsapp messages and phone calls. Theatre artistes deserve our utmost respect and it must be given to them.

Beyond this, or maybe despite this,  the cast did carry the play off well on their shoulders and Nitish Bharadwaj on stage is just as impressive as he was on screen those many decades ago!

But while the play has been lauding his return I think what really stands out is the script by noted playwright and director Atul Satya Koushik. The play comes out as a labour of love weaving in its concentricity of war stratagem the intricacies that life draws us into. Chakravyuh captures the metaphorical warfare that each of us engage in, quite unsuccessfully,  as part of life. And in the final analysis the message remains – that you do need to keep fighting till the end. Abhimanyu’s death, leaving behind a disconsolate pregnant wife is another reference that her battle has just begun as she readies herself to bring up her unborn child on her own. And in a final submission, Krishna himself points out how tied to each of our selfish pledges, our vows of revenge and our weaving and interweaving of anger and hate and how they only succeed in creating an unconquerable web that binds and chokes and knows no end.

The philosophy behind Chakravyuh, the play and the metaphor in the great epic is deep and intense and it will take some time to get it. Meanwhile watch the play if you do get a chance. Take the lesson home. And get yourself armed for the ultimate battle of life.