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Andha Yug: The Agony of Right and Wrong

Even after centuries have passed, a million retellings done and a thousand perspectives discussed, the Mahabharata doesn’t fail to tantalise or raise serious existential questions on morality, ethics and the futility of violence.

Last night’s play at the 14th Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META) festival, Andha Yug, directed by Joy Maisnam and produced by TAAM (Manipur), had me riveted by its powerful standpoint on the Kurukshetra war, its spectacular choreography and striking drum-beats of war. A visual treat aside, which it was – all bare-bodied, rippling warrior muscles, brilliantly stage-lit, it raised very relevant questions on the eternal riddle of good vs evil and who exactly was “right” in the Kurukshetra war.

The play revolves around the bloody finale of the 18-day epic battle which is largely seen through the unspeakable grief of the Kaurava matriarch Gandhari, and her inability to understand the divine justice in losing all of her 100 sons in its senseless violence. Gandhari questions in the very beginning – who exactly is on the side of “Dharma”? And this I have often wondered too – weren’t they all fighting for the “adharm” of self-aggrandisement? Isn’t every war ultimately just that?

In Gandhari’s howl of grief, lies her distrust too of the unquestioning reverence meted to Krishna - she is aware of his schemes and machinations in helping the Pandavas win – from telling Yudhishtir to be evasive about the killing of Ashwatthama the elephant, and thereby mislead the mighty Dronacharya to believe it was his son Ashwatthama who is dead and thus allow Dhrishtadumna, the Pandava army chief, to swiftly behead Drona, to the most grievous deception of all – when Krishna pointed at his own thigh to Bheema to signal that Bheema should hit Duryodhan on the thigh – the only susceptible part of the latter’s body (which had not been blessed by his mother’s divine sight) which led to the fatal blow that felled Duryodhan.

The scene shifts to the battlefield where the hapless Ashwatthama watches his mentor Duryodhan lie in immobile agony, his thighs smashed by Bheema’s blow – he will soon die but not before he anoints Ashwatthama as the new senapati and avenge the Kauravas’ fate. Ashwatthama, another of the play’s key protagonists, goes on a rampage that night, killing many from the opposing side in the quiet of the night, strictly unethical by the laws of war, and then decides to release the “Brahmastra” at the same time as Arjuna does so. And once again you worry about the rightness or wrongness of it all.

As soon as the deadly weapon is released, we hear a disembodied voice, presumably of Vyasa, warning of the utter destruction this weapon would bring making the earth and all its people barren and lifeless. In my mind, I saw the chilling prophecy of modern nuclear warfare and thought of the aftermath of Hiroshima’s Brahmastra.

Ashwatthama refuses to take the weapon back (We know from our knowledge of the epic that Arjuna had taken his Brahmastra back as he had been instructed how to by Krishna his charioteer; we also know that Ashwatthma, in his inability to call the weapon back and in his desire to wipe out the Pandava dynasty, had directed his towards the womb of Uttara which was nurturing Arjuna’s grandchild, the dead Abhimanyu’s child.) and is cursed by Krishna to be doomed to roam the forests of the earth forever, wounded and suffering, and unable to be freed from his predicament by the gift of death.

The final scene is palpable in the heightened tension of Gandhari’s sorrow as she confronts the dead Duryodhan’s corpse and invokes the powers of a mother’s strength to curse Krishna – she sends his entire race to the grim fate of being perished by famine and him to die an animal’s death, pierced by a hunter’s arrow. We see Krishna in the background accepting his curse and his fate with stoic and calm acceptance; we hear Gandhari’s lament at what she had done; we understand the ineluctability of destiny as we see a hunter walk onto the stage and take aim just before the auditorium is plunged into complete darkness.

Last night’s play made us think. It made us agonise over Gandhari’s choice to be “andha”, unseeing of the cruelty of the real world. And be moved. It also made me realise that the truths and tales of the Mahabharata, whether we have actually read its many translations or devoured its numerous Amar Chitra Katha stories or followed the technicolour visuals of the tacky but iconic 90s TV soap, are indelible parts of India’s collective subconscious, bound to plague us at some point in our adult lives! Yes, the play assumed some amount of foreknowledge of the epic on the part of the audience, but that was easy – over five thousand years of oral history came bubbling up to our minds’ surface…

19 Comments

  • Sneha

    What a wonderful experience watching ANDHA YUG directed by Maisnam Joy Meetei ... The play starts with banged music and beautiful compositions ,rythamic body movements creating war tension and fear and Anger..... all the actors speaking the text through their bodies... Really mesmerized by the performance.. !!! Good kuchh Team!!!

    15 days ago Reply
  • Baby Kumari

    Awesome play and Awesome feeling to perform Andha Yug

    15 days ago Reply
  • Vimal

    I have to mention about the visuals here especially the lighting’s. Each and every emotion had their own individual lighting’s. For instance, using of red for expressing anger. Next comes,the castings. Each and every character was brilliantly chosen and it has done the purpose in a very fabulous way. Next, sound. The sync of sound with the actions of the character was to the point. The beats of drums and strong musics left audience awestruck. The emotion was overwhelming in the entire auditorium.

    15 days ago Reply
  • Deependu sharma

    Owsome perfomence by whole crew

    15 days ago Reply
  • Saurabh

    It was awesome, the performance every character was amazing.

    15 days ago Reply
  • Aparna

    What a beautiful experience it was... Every step , every speck of light, every muscle that moved on stage was rhythmic! Gandhari's vilaap is still haunting me. Such beautiful vision this play was!

    15 days ago Reply
  • Shalini tripathi

    What a great show by joy mainsam.... I never imagined a play like andhayug can be done in a psycho physical style.... I loved synchronization of the team and music was very good....

    15 days ago Reply
  • Amit Jindal

    Andha Yug is classic and this performance doesn't tangled in the text, and that is the Beauty of Plat. The text though which has been already explored. The design of the play appears from the sound and lights. But after that very gradually, the images hold the audience and drive them to ultimate goal. The hard core performance shows that the Joy, director of play has burn his hands and oil of night. Brave effort. The actors who were raw(though their performance was quite opposite) and were not in big roles were better than the experienced ones.

    15 days ago Reply
  • Anupras

    A Very nice play good coriography and design with physically movement awesome Performance is perfect.

    15 days ago Reply
  • Sunita

    Some theatre goers may find it boring to watch a show again and again . I have the same feeling . But ‘ andha yudh ‘ was interesting and not boring to watch again and again . It’s a talentedly choreographed , voices of actors very charming to hear , bodies of actors very attractive etc .....

    15 days ago Reply
  • Pawan gaur

    What a amazing play . I never seen before

    15 days ago Reply
  • Utkarsh Sharma

    If you are enjoying the play and talk about it, it's a good show. If you are shell shocked and shaken to the core then this means that the play touched you and left a mark. This version of Andha Yug takes you to a totally different dimension. It makes the viewer to question and analyse the events and dissect the perspective of all the players in the game of war, politics, aftermath and propaganda. The director's vision focusses on the struggle of Gandhari, Krishna, Ashvashthama and all those who participated, dead or alive. The story has been told multiple times. This version hits you like a punch to the gut and makes you question "WAS IT REALLY NECESSARY TO WAGE A WAR" If it is performed daily I will be watching it everyday.

    15 days ago Reply
  • Manish

    The best play of 2019 everyone should watch Andha Yug 'the master piece ' joy sir Direction is splendid and kudos to his team.

    15 days ago Reply
  • Amit antil

    'andha yug' an incredible play with awesome music, direction, acting and choreography. It keeps one glued to the seat.

    15 days ago Reply
  • Ujjwal Verma

    First of all it was not just a Play , it's like something real to the surrounding ..A master piece of Act , everyone was Soo Soo real on their character , specially the physical things which have been shown in the play was Astonishing . And saajida ma'am you were really Amazing as usual , the way you get into the character and being the same is something unbelievable , Lastly I would like to say A great team work along with the Direction of joy sir , Hats off to you sir 🙏❣️

    15 days ago Reply
  • Ayush Thakur

    One of the best plays I have seen. The performances of all the cast members is absolutely spot on.

    15 days ago Reply
  • Jitender kumar

    The play is so beautiful very very touching. Great choreography,best play in my life

    15 days ago Reply
  • Rishil dudeja

    The act actually changed my perception about theaters and stage performances. I randomly came to watch someother play but popped in to andha yug by chance and i guess it was my luck by chance. Specially that lady who played the role of kunti.

    15 days ago Reply
  • Viren Bhati

    Awesome play with great direction by joy maisnam.wonderful performances by all artists specially sajida mam and shehnawaz.ice on the cake were light and sound..Overall an amazing performance by a great team..congrats and all the best to all TAA team.

    15 days ago Reply

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