Gopika Girish, out of her passion for theatre and the urge to tell stories of social significance, has added contemporary relevance to Kadangada, a 40-minute-long play directed by Jayaprakash Kariyal. The play written by V.K. Prabhakaran, Sahitya Akademi awardee, was staged recently.
Navarasas flickered on Gopika’s face during the act depicting the pain the protagonist, Kadangada, was going through upon the loss of her husband Ghatotkacha. Gopika is a post-graduate Mass Communication student at Pondicherry Central University. Hailing from a family of drama artistes, theatre and performing arts have been her passion since childhood.
Mahabharata, while epitomising Krishna and other gods, neglects the devastation caused by war and its impact on life. The epic got reinterpreted through the monologue as an attempt to breath in a new dimension to it through the perspective of Kadangada, wife of Ghatotkacha. The play, written back in 1997, has been redefined by narrating the current issues of discrimination, dalit and adivasi oppression as well as the incidents in Yemen, Gaza and Sudan.
The play centres on Kadangada’s lament over the death of her husband Ghatotkacha by Karna. Ghatotkacha was deceived by Krishna’s wit and brought to the war front. Karna’s aim to kill Arjuna got overthrown by Krishna’s trick and Kadangada laments in front of the Pandavas to claim her husband’s body to cremate with rakshasa rituals.
“You might not know this Kadangada, but you may know Madhu well, whom you murdered,” Gopika said during the play. “Human life is deprived of value where cow is worshipped,” she added. The play attained contemporary relevance with Kadangada’s question, “Ain’t Bhagavad Gita stitched in the flesh and weaved in blood?”
“The play interprets Mahabharata differently from the Brahminical adoration of Krishna. Moreover, nobody talks about the devastations war cause; about 50 lakh elephants and horses were killed and millions of people died. I connected the play with the deaths in Yemen, Gaza, Sudan and the caste hierarchy in society. In the name of caste, creed and colour, elites (savarnas) continue to hegemonise the society, derived from the power of single way of interpreting religious scriptures. For the sake of adoring the kings, injustices continue to prevail as in the case of Ghatotkacha. Enacting Kadangada was a liberating and immersive experience for me,” she says.
“The play perceives Mahabharata through the eyes of a marginalised, depressed woman, rendering it a dalit and feministic view. Ghatotkacha was the real heir of Hasthinapuri, but he was defeated by dalit discrimination. Mahabharata favours the elite (savarna) class and the kings, those who surrenders even wives for victory in war and remain unaffected and safe while the dalit lives are shattered,” says V. K. Prabhakaran, playwright.
“The play was adapted from the short story Bhagavante Attahasangal, which was enacted by Elsy Sukumaran for four years in 500 stages in 1997. It has assumed contemporary significance by Gopika’s additions,” says Jayaprakash Kariyal....