An epic on stage
Director Rudradeep Chakrabarti tells NANDINI NAIR that his play on Karna is dedicated to the diffident
THE ART OF LIFE Rudradeep Chakrabarti is immersed in rehearsals for “Karna, Warrior of the Sun”
A wave of Vedic chanting crests through the air. Two men are framed in a window wielding swords. There’s an other worldly atmosphere in an other worldly time. That’s because the rehearsals of “Karna, Warrior of the Sun” are on. Director Rudradeep Chakrabarti emerges from the basement. With his unruly dreadlocks, he’s impossible to miss or mistake. He doesn’t dabble in the small. First, there was “City of Djinns”, staged
at the impressive Mati Ghar with a star cast of Tom Alter and Zohra Segal. Now there’s “Karna, Warrior of the Sun”. To be performed at month-end, it has already gained publicity with the claim, “for the first time computer generated images combine with live action”.
The initial idea was to stage “Karna, Warrior of the Sun” at Purana Quila. But having been refused permission it will now be at the vast Siri Fort auditorium. Farukh Dhondy has written it. And it has been translated into Hindi by Ranjit Kapoor.
A complete process
While daily practices extend up to six hours, the play never leaves Chakrabarti. He sleeps and wakes with it. Being a lean theatre period Chakrabarti finds that half his time and most of his energy is spent on keeping his troops together. Chakrabarti reveals that Farukh Dhondy, Bobby Bedi and he sat together to select a character from the Mahabharata. While names like Draupadi and Eklavya came up, the figure of Karna seemed the most appealing. Chakrabarti elaborates, “Karna is the dream project of many actors. He’s multi-dimensional. Also, there are interesting similarities between him and characters from Western mythology like Achilles and Moses.” Karna, like Achilles, had a single vulnerable point. And he too like Moses was swept down the river as a child. But what attracts Chakrabarti the most, is the similarity between Karna and common people. He underscores, “I dedicate this play to all the diffident people of the world.” After all, Karna’s story is finally the tragedy of a man who is a victim of his principles and overwhelming circumstances.
With Bollywood producers does this National School of Drama graduate feel creatively straitjacketed? He explains patiently, “Yes, as a director there’s one aesthetic. And as a producer there’s another. But I’ve managed to blend my own creativity with my target audience. But in commercial theatre I can also work with creative people, and that’s good.” For him it’s more a question of good theatre than a toss up between commercial and non-commercial theatre. He doesn’t believe that we’re necessarily witnessing an ascent in commercial theatre. He points out, “Right now such (commercial) projects aren’t too frequent. Half of this year has gone by and I haven’t seen other such works.”
While the play’s focus is Karna, it also addresses the battle of Kurukshetra and the wisdom of the Geeta. But Chakrabarti doesn’t wish to alienate any audience member. So the play includes both Vedic chanting and computer graphics. Preferring to downplay the computer-generated graphics, he merely says, “I want it to reach the masses.”
When he’s not working on the epic, Chakrabarti is busy with his residential art foundation located in Pahar Ganj.
(The play runs from 25th July to 3rd August at Siri Fort Auditorium)
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