‘Karna’ - tribute to the anti-hero

August 7th, 2008 - 10:51 am ICT by IANS  

By Robin Bansal
New Delhi, Aug 7 (IANS) Showing how social barriers can prevent people from attaining success, Bobby Bedi’s play “Karna - Warrior of the Sun” tells the tale of the unsung hero of the Mahabharata and his struggle to rise above his social station to become a respected warrior. Karna was born of divinity but raised as the son of a lowly charioteer. The play captures his quest for honour despite unfavourable circumstances.

“I have dedicated the play to all defeated people in the world. Everybody has a hero within and each one of us must have lost a battle some time in life due to unfavourable conditions and external pressures,” the play’s director, Rudradeep Chakrabarti, told IANS.

Written by Farrukh Dhondy, and co-produced by Varsha Bedi and Shivani Wazir Pasrich, “Karna” was staged here during the July 23-Aug 3 extravaganza of Kaleidoscope Entertainment’s maiden attempt at theatre.

“Successful sportspersons get an Arjuna award but there is no Karna award. The play is about how social walls block the way to success. It also gives some kind of contemporary relevance to the Mahabharata from Karna’s point of view,” Chakrabarti said.

The story traces fragments from Karna’s early life and follows his rise as a close confidant of Duryodhana, the Kaurava prince. It explores his enmity with the Pandavas, resulting in his death at their hands.

An unusual facet of the play was the usage of computer-generated images on the cyclorama, leaving a thin line between theatre and the big screen.

When asked how difficult it was to synchronise the on-stage performance and the special effects on a 70 mm screen, Chakrabarti said: “It was not at all difficult. I just asked my actors to not get conscious of the screen.”

“There were only two scenes when the live actors and the images were together. This experiment was our attempt to blend Hinduism with technology, keeping the authenticity of the epic,” he added.

Actor Nissar Khan, who plays the tragic protagonist, succeeded in lending a cathartic touch to his endeavour. The story was enhanced by meticulously crafted digital imagery, choreography, resonant music and martial arts with dollops of symbols and histrionics.

“Karna is a complex character. He was born with mystique qualities such as the divine armour and earrings. His character has a universal appeal just like Moses, Achilles and even Shakespeare’s Coriolanus,” said Chakrabarti.

There will be stand-alone stagings of the play in Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore this year. Next year, Chakrabarti is planning to take an English version with a new cast to Britain.

“Till now the western audience must have had only read about Karna in books or watched his story on television or in the movies. Nobody has ever shown the journey of his complexity on such a massive scale in theatre. I am sure they would love to see this fragment of authentic India,” said Chakrabarti.

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