Mahabharata 2 – Practicing the incult package & shallow tricks in Mahabharata’s Udyoga Parva

Posted by Kaahon Desk On July 2, 2019


The term ‘package’ is quite relevant in our lives. We travel in tour packages, undergo operations through medical packages, purchase daily items as parts of packages and some even think of marriage as package offers. Several market analyses have come to the conclusion that we don’t like buying anything separately anymore. As a result, we’re even ready to compromise with the quality of products and buy 2-3 unnecessary items as parts of a package.


Natadha has recently staged their latest production ‘Mahabharata 2’. Prior to this, they had reproduced the Virata Parva – the year spent incognito at the court of Virata by the Pandavas in their production ‘Mahabharata’ in 2002. This time they have chosen an adequate part of the ‘Udyoga Parva’. The plot of the epic is known to all. The Udyoga Parva comprises the story of the Pandavas trying to revive the throne of Hastinapur after 12 years in exile and one year in the court of King Virata. This episode makes it clear that the Kuru dynasty is reluctant to give up the throne as well as the kingdom. Hence, war is inevitable.

The Mahabharata occupies a great space in our culture. Besides the people of Bengal, every human being has created a well-knit, complex and expanded web of the plot with the help of their own basic instincts implanted in their minds. The expansion of the plot is so complex and recursive that if we interpret a part of it (keeping the original story unchanged), we can create a new network of meanings with our own explanations. Therefore, time and again, the Mahabharata has been interpreted in diverse ways with the spirit of collective consciousness.

Previous Kaahon Theatre Review:

This play has clearly stated that war is inevitable if oppositions are formed, that it’s impossible to establish oneself or be victorious without war and those who prefer peace to war are also actually forming another opposition. Well, everyone wants to win in their own ways and ‘victory without war’ is unimaginable. The situation of war in the contemporary society and the mindset of an individual, who considers himself / herself to be indomitable, pair up well with the interpretation in the play. Here, Draupadi is shown as consciously manipulating and instigating the five Pandavas to go to war. Hurting their self-respect and dignity, Draupadi prompts them to take part in the war, at least for the sake of their masculinity, so as to take revenge for harassing Draupadi. Krishna is depicted as an intellectual diplomat, who influences and provokes the different parties in his own ways, but attempts to maintain a neutral position staying behind the veil of peace. On one hand, he maintains an essence of love in front of Draupadi and on the other, urges Karna to get Draupadi back. We see how Duryodhana tries to plant the seeds of crudeness and evil in the minds of the Pandavas, his own parents and his uncle Shakuni. Not only does he want to gain absolute power but also forces his subjects to shift their concerns from the welfare of the kingdom to worshipping the ruler. All these dark thoughts are very familiar to us and hidden inside our very own minds. Sometimes, these dark thoughts either spill out on social media platforms or during face-to-face disputes, or are even concealedin the modern “packaging” of theories while having to take sides. And hence, this interpretation remains undoubtedly relevant with respect to the current scenario.

But the fact is the audience is used to enjoying package offers. The relevance of the content to the contemporary situation isn’t enough for them. While watching the play, the audience wants to experience a burst of excitement and other emotions as well as make good use of the ticket priced at Rs.200. Frankly speaking, it might seem like the director and the playwright believe in the idea of the ‘package’ more than the audience does. They have stated their purpose clearly without any hint to the audience – “Our production is a full entertainment package”. Apart from ‘Mahabharata 2’, their last 3-4 productions echo this exact tagline.As an outcome, the unnecessary jumping about and yelling of actors along with their acting having a “trendy” smartness, the blinding use of lights and the deafening use of sound are disjointedly conspicuous. The audience starts clapping like dolls whenever any one of these happens in front of them. Probably, for the wholesome “entertainment” of the audience, phrases like “shantir chele” (son of a prostitute) and “unnayan atke dewa” (stopping the transformation) have been used in the dialogues. Perhaps for the same reason, the actor playing the character of Krishna has used the Kathakali idiom in the way of performing stunts, and later in his speech battle with Duryodhana, he has proudly used rhythms of tap dancing. How strange! The audience was amused to have witnessed this. Probably, on their way home, they’ve said, “What a great entertainment package! Such a modern approach!”

We must not be having any problem with modernization or packages. The time demands capitalism and capitalism demands sellable products. But what Bengali theatre is presenting to the audience in the name of package entertainment is the use of certain disjointed tropes that fail to be compatible with the text and essence of the play. While watching the production, it becomes obvious that the director is more enthusiastic about selling the tickets than honestly staging the journey of the play. The disappointment lies in the fact that the audience is enjoying and encouraging such a production while the audience that loves to watch productions made with an honest spirit is decreasing day by day.

Apart from the text and the acting, there are three more relevant elements of a play – set, music and lights. It might sound sad but most of the directors in Bengal are quite unaware as to how to use these three elements in a play. That is why, in most cases, not much is written about those elements. The playwright is Shib Mukhopadhyay (wrong words like “shokhyota” instead of “shokhyo” meaning friendship and irrelevant ones like “shantir chele” meaning “son of a prostitute” aren’t expected from someone so experienced like him). I’ve got nothing to say about the style of acting but everyone has tried their best to maintain that “smartness” in theirs. Actors were either not convinced with the smart style of acting or weren’t mature enough to perform it, which led the apparent smartness to become scattered all over the place. The characters of Duryodhana, Krishna and Draupadi were played by Arna Mukhopadhyay, Rudrarup Mukhopadhyay and Sohini Sarkar respectively – all of them were “smart” in their own ways. Only Koushik Chattopadhyay in the character of Dhritarashtra touches a chord (couldn’t others have learnt from him?).

Arna Mukhopadhyay has directed the play and designed its sound. Kalyan Ghosh has designed the light while Milan and Sarthak have designed the set. Costume has been designed by Bimal Maity. One thing must be asked – why did I witness both European (mainly Greek) and street (primarily dhoti pants) style costumes in ‘Mahabharata 2’? Why did they use modern dumbbells? Did the director or the costume designer ponder over what kind of costumes would have suited the era of the Mahabharata? Or what sort of body building machines was used in that era? Or even what type of crowns kings used to wear? Various pieces of Indian, European, Arabic and American stock music have been used that singe-handedly destroy the unity of time and space. Choreographies in groups have been meaninglessly included in the play (Choruses of Greek tragedies? No other signifier of Greek tragedies was found though). If you get frustrated with having no answers to so many questions, better watch Peter Brook’s two-segment Mahabharata.

Eknayoker Shesh Raat –Trivialization of context by much dependence on entertainment quotient

In the case of any art form, compatibility and relevance serve a political stance. Not maintaining that compatibility and relevance is also part of that politics. But the way Bengali theatre has rejected a proper purpose and has taken up the package policy to entertain its audience, who are overtly enthusiastic to witness these entertainment packages, should we call it a victory of Bengali theatre? Who knows!


In an essay published in leading newspaper in Bengali, Nrisinhaprasad Bhaduri had written that when dark times arrive, like the Mushal Parva in the Mahabharata, the humour of the people become inartistic, their minds lose their sharpness and they find great entertainment in everything crass. Such facts were stated by Nrisinhaprasad Bhaduri, not me.


Ebong Ipsita
A Kolkata based theatre practitioner, she has been doing theatre from 2005 and now she is co-directing and adapting plays for different theatre groups in Bengal. She believes to explore the web medium as well to express herself to the world.

Translation: Kankabati Banerjee

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