Kanthi Tripathi’s
Kurukshetra …… and After

Stage Buzz, a new Theatre Group with a progressive outlook, has produced the play Kurukshetra……and After which is a powerful and vivid portrayal on the theme of women and war. It addresses the impact that war has on the lives of women and their struggle to come to terms with its aftermath.

The play was presented by Delhi Tourism in association with Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Government of India, at Shri Ram Centre, Safdar Hashmi Marg, Mandi House, New Delhi on 11 and 12 December 2002 at 7 pm.

The performance on the second day, December 12, was dedicated to Delhi Tourism Foundation Day. Smt. Sheila Dikshit, Chief Minister, Government of NCT of Delhi, had consented to be the Chief Guest and on that day and Shri Jagmohan, Minister of Tourism and Culture, Government was the Guest of Honour.

The play has been directed by the well-known Theatre Actor/Director and Critic, Manohar Khushalani. As a member of Theatre Union, Khushalani had taken up major social issues such as dowry, bride burning, Sati, banned medicinal drugs, as themes of street plays. Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist and Can’t Pay Won’t Pay, both directed by Manohar Khushalani, received rave notices from critics and audiences alike. Other plays directed by him include Badal Sircar’s Sagina Mahato and Dario Fo’s Empire Builders for Ruchika Theatre Group.

A women oriented play, Kurukshetra……and After, has been written by Kanthi Tripathi. It has five women characters played by experienced actresses. Rashmi Vaidialingam, Charu Malhotra, Ruchita Puri, Nidhi Sharma and Shreya Sharma, each of whom brings to her role both the poignancy and the innate courage of the characters that they portray. The director introduced a male character, played by Parvesh Haryani, to bring out a tonal variation. The music, which highlights the dramatic tension in the play is by Indraneel Hariharan.

The theme is highlighted through a powerful script based on the experience of women, both royal and common, who suffer devastating losses in Kurukshetra, the great battle of the Indian epic The Mahabharata. The issues that confronted those women have remarkable contemporary relevance, and are strikingly similar to those that challenge the women of today. The script has a persuasive poetic format that lends itself to a contemporary rendition yet retaining the epic proportions of a classical genre.

The setting of this play is the city of Hastinapur just after the end of the great Kurukshetra War. The war is over, and the funeral rites of the thousands of slain have taken place. Gandhari and Kunti, the mothers of the Kauravs and the Pandavas respectively, overcome by the tragedy and the futility of the war, are thinking of leaving the palace and retiring to the forest along with Gandhari's blind husband. Panchali is equally grief-stricken, but as the wife of the Pandavas, is now the queen of Hastinapur, and cannot leave.

In her the sense of duty to Hastinapur is the greatest, and she instills it in the older queens, Kunti and Gandhari. She persuades the older women not to abandon her.

The three women, after going through a phase of accusation and even justification, realise that have much in common. The two other women in the room, who serve the queens, act as the chorus and also represent the tragedy of Hastinapur caught in the middle of a most bloody family conflict. Their individual grief eventually blurs the identity of one from the other, and of the three women from the hundreds of other women who, as survivors, suffered the ultimate tragedy of the war.

The play brings together five very different women, each with a compelling point of view on what went wrong and on the aggregate of causes that led to the carnage of Kurukshetra.
The three royal women are seen more as being selfishly engrossed in accusing and consoling each other, still insensitive to the tragedy of Hastinapur which paid so dearly for their family conflict. The contrast of the blunt commentary of the two maids gives dramatic sharpness to the dialogue, and highlights the very different concerns of the common people.

Some solace to the personal tragedy of all is eventually to be found in the future of Hastinapur, even if Kurukshetra will abide as a dark flank in their individual lives.

The closing and the opening chorus provide both the historical and the contemporary context of the play, and serve to bring the moral issues of war, the relationship between the ruler and the ruled, and the potential role of women into sharp focus. Stage Buzz solicits invitations to perform the play anywhere in the world




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