B R Chopra’s television serial Mahabharat is considered one of the few classics of Indian television. It is remembered and watched (on YouTube) even today, more than 30 years after its first run.
Nitish Bhardwaj’s performance as Lord Krishna is a major reason why the serial is still revered. I have heard numerous people considering him as a deity of Krishna. Such was his divine act as the lord, especially when he narrates the Bhagavad Gita to Arjun just before the commencement of the war of Kurukshetra.
For those who have been mighty impressed by Bhardwaj’s act as Krishna, it becomes a mesmerizing experience to see him perform the same character in front of you on stage. Writer and director Atul Satya Koushik’s Hindi play Chakravyuh makes this possible.
What pleasantly surprises you is to see Bhardwaj looking almost the same in the Krishna get-up even after more than 30 years and creating exactly the same effect like he did in the serial. When he recites those verses from the Gita, you can’t help but applaud.
But Chakrayuh is not all about him though. As per the title, the story revolves around Abhimanyu penetrating the Chakravyuh designed by the Kaurava’s during the war of Kurukshetra and getting killed since he hadn’t learned how to come out of it.
The play skilfully narrates the story commencing from Abhimanyu going into the Chakravyuh till his funeral. What makes Chakravyuh further impressive is that the entire play is written in a poetic form. It is the kind of poetry which can be understood even by those who are not used to listening to poetic narrations.
This ensures that the unique interpretation of the Chakravyuh is understood easily. It’s relatable to people from all walks of life, just like the Gita. And no, the narrative doesn’t get preachy.
The director hasn’t let himself get affected by the limitations of stage medium when it comes to depicting the war scenes. The long fight sequence between Abhimanyu and seven Kauravas gives the same effect as cinema. You get excited to know what happens next although you know the outcome.
Lalit Bhardwaj’s thoroughly dedicated performance as Abhimanyu takes the play to higher notches. He doesn’t get overshadowed even a bit by the towering character of Krishna.
Other technical aspects are praiseworthy too including the music (which includes a part from Jagjit Singh’s Hare Krishna japa) and the use of lights. It is good to see that the set designer hasn’t gone overboard because of the scale of the play and has stuck with moderate but highly effective designing.
Coming to the minor minus points, you wonder as to why they didn’t show the characters fighting with swords at all. There are a couple of sequences which could have been shortened.
However, these issues won’t bother you after the final monologue by Bhardwaj. This is the high point of Chakravyuh when Krishna sarcastically yet gently explains the importance of Karma and carrying out your rightful duty.
By: Keyur Seta
Additional reading/ viewing: