Written by the veteran playwright Girish Karnad, Agni Aur Barkha is a story drawn from the great Indian epic Mahabharata. A story about love, lust and power, this was adapted for the stage by K. S. Rajendran as a tribute to the late writer and performed at the Summer Theatre Festival at NCR.
WHAT’S Agni Aur Barkha ABOUT:
All the great sages are conducting a yagna to appease Lord Indra, which has been ongoing for seven years as the long spell of drought has ruined the region. The chief priest of the yagna is Parvasu who has abandoned his wife, Vishakha for the rituals. He has also incurred his father’s wrath for being chosen as the head while Raibhya was rejected for being malicious and vengeful towards his own brother. Yavakri, Paravasu’s cousin and Vishakha’s old lover, is back after being away for ten years, wherein he gained the ultimate knowledge from Lord Indra. He intends to take revenge on Raibhya for what he did to his father. Juxtaposed to this feud of power and revenge is the pure love story of Paravasu’s younger brother, Aravasu. He is in love with a local tribal girl Nittilai and takes part in theatre; enough to get him excommunicated from the community of Brahmins. The play is entrenched in complexities of the human mind, intense hatred for arch-rivals, patricide, and the world of sensuousness.
The play is a commentary on the social fabric of the times. The ruthless mind games played by Brahmins, the scenes with the bitter family feud, and the play’s complex characters are its high points. The middle of the stage has a long curtain with some lights, giving the illusion of the fire burning for the yagna, while also symbolizing the ever-present fire in the heart of humans. The movable bamboo boxes and clever lighting also help in showing the different locations easily. The play starts with a synchronized recitation of Sanskrit mantras and ends with a dramatic sequence of the loss of love mixed with relief for the rains. The actors give brilliant performances with a very realistic portrayal of raw emotions such as love, lust, power, and sacrifice.
WHAT COULD’VE BEEN BETTER:
The play stays true to the time it is set in. That includes the costumes, set design, and language. It is in pure Hindi, which might be difficult for some audiences to understand.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH:
Agni Aur Barkha is like an Ekta Kapoor-serial set in mythological India. It is a complete package with emotions, pure love, struggle for power, and lustful desires. It is an entertaining play that explores certain key themes such as caste, relationships between actors and their character, as well as society. It is a fantastic play with some very gripping performances.