Enter The Maze
The Mahabharat has so many stories that lend themselves to the stage. There was the classic Andha Yug and many versions of Draupadi’s point of view. Atul Satya Koushik’s Chakravyuh places Arjun’s son Abhimanyu at the centre.
According to the epic, when Arjun was telling his wife Subhadra how the tough battle formation of the Chakravyuh is to be entered, the foetus of Abhimanyu heard it all and retained it; when Arjun was telling her how to get out of it, she fell asleep, so Abhimanyu gained just half the knowledge.
The Battle of Kuruskhetra, between Pandava and Kaurava cousins was savage and not always in keeping with the accepted rules or warfare. Even the righteous Pandavas with Lord Krishna on their side, were not averse to deceit.
When the Kauravas find that they are not making any headway in the war, they found a way of getting Arjun away from battlefield, and tried to lure the Pandavas into the Chakravyuh. However, only Abhimanyu (Sahil Chhabra) managed to get in, was trapped and killed by seven of the greatest warriors on the Kaurava side. He was only sixteen when he died, and left his pregnant wife Uttara to cope with his tragically premature death.
Koushik has set-up the battle sequences very well, even though the overuse of bright LED lights and the smoke machine was a bit jarring. The glittering costumes were obviously inspired by the TV serial which had Nitish Bharadwaj in the role of Krishna, which he reprises in this play.
The play, written in verse, is a delight to hear, and most of the actors speak Hindi with admirable clarity. Chakravyuh actually comes together in the second half when Krishna has his say. When Uttara asks how she will bring up a fatherless child, Krishna talks of how the male and female are part of everyone, and women have always managed to channel their male side to raise their children on their own.
He also derides the tendency of everyone—from Draupadi to Bhim—to make grandiose vows. If it weren’t for Draupadi’s vow never to tie her hair till she could wash it with Duryodhan’s blood, the war may not have been fought with such brutality; if it weren’t for Bhim’s vow to kill Duryodhan and Dushassan, Abhimanyu would not have spared their lives in battle. And finally he explains the meaning of the Chakravyuh, and why it is so tough to get out it.
It was undoubtedly a coup to cast Bharadwaj as Krishna, he has tremendous stage presence and the carries off the role with gravity tinged with just the right touch of humour.