KARNABHAARAM

The performance

 

Theatre Nisha performed Karnabhaaram in Hindi, Sanskrit and English as part of a lecture-demonstration for the Sanskrit students of Stella Maris College for Women.

 

Cast: V. Balakrishnan, Meera Sitaraman, Srivaralaxmi Venkatraman Iyer and Anees Sultana

 

The play

 

The time and space of action is from the eleventh day of the Kurukshetra war. A warrior from Duryodhana calls Karna to fight for his side as Bhishma has fallen. The great warrior Karna, the son of Surya, is seen depressed on the battlefield instead of being mighty and powerful.  He is worried of his birth, his caste and his social status. For a while he is moved by the meaninglessness of the war where men kill each other. He says that irrespective of his victory or loss, war is a real waste. Karna tells Shalya about the curse given by his Guru, Parasurama.  The astra advised by Parasurama is found powerless at the needed hour. The entry of Indra disguised as a Brahmin, follows, who cunningly takes away the divine Kavacha and Kundala from Karna. He understands that the whole plot is masterminded by Krishna and accepts his fate. A messenger from Indra offers a powerful weapon, the Vimala, which can destroy one amongst the Pandavas. Karna is not willing to accept but the messenger insists saying ’This is the word of a Brahmin’. Accepting the challenge from Arjuna and Krishna the revitalized Karna proceeds to this ultimate fate heroically.

 

The playwright

 

Bhasa is a celebrated name in classical Sanskrit drama.  Bhasa wrote in a period which was politically, socially, economically and most important, culturally dynamic. Theatre was already an established art form and the foremost treatise on fine arts, Bharata’s Natyasastra, was written in the same period. For over fifteen hundred years classical Indian commentators and anthologists have counted Bhasa among the foremost writers of ancient India. He made use of the Sanskrit language in a simpler form as compared to the more ornate style of later playwrights. He dispensed with the opening benediction or nandi and began his plays directly with the stage direction. And, most importantly, he broke with convention by giving a tragic endings to two of his plays, Urubhangam and Karnabhaaram, with the death of the hero on stage. Bhasa’s plays were lost over a period of time but thirteen were rediscovered in Kerala at the beginning of the twentieth century. Of these, six are based on the Mahabharata story which Bhasa embellished for obtaining dramatic effects.

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