The tale of how the devastating sight on the battlefield of Kalinga affected the great Mauryan Emperor Asok is well known in history. Dharmashok depicts the condition of Magadha, Pataliputra and the reaction of the subjects and Ministry after Asok’s decision to convert to Buddhism. It also takes on the journey of Asok’s own inner conflicts while converting from Chandasok to Dhammasok.

DharmashokAsok’s (Tapanjyoti) decision of taking up Buddhism and the path of non-violence by laying down his sword after the Kalinga war out of repentance did not go down well with his Prime Minister Jougondhoraayan (Sanjib Sarkar). His only concern lay in the welfare of the Mauryan Empire and would do whatever is required to prevent the fall of the mighty empire because of Asok’s emotional turmoil. On the other hand, in the palace of Pataliputra, Tissarakshita (Senjuti Mukhopadhyay), one of Asok’s wives also revolted out of dissatisfaction and hatred for separating from her love Prince Kunal (Debshankar Halder). The Prime Minister and Queen Tissarakshita hatch the conspiracy to kill Asok to save the Empire from its doom. To know what happens next, how does Asok overcome his inner conflicts and whether Tissarakshita could be one with her love, one must catch the play the next time it hits the theatres.

Although a very good storyline with a good star cast, there were a few repetitions with respect to dialogues. What could’ve helped was formally establishing the theme of the play, which may have left the audience in confusion. The start of the play seemed abrupt but flowed well by the second half of the play. The actors were brilliant in their respective roles, the dance sequences were well choreographed and all the dancers were in sync. The background score, stage and light setting was also good.

If you get a chance you should catch Dharmashok when it is being performed in your city.

– Written by Smita Nag.