Life & after life

Ambika Shaligram
Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Amarbeli, a Hindi play that revolves around the subject of immortality, will be staged in the city on Friday evening

Amarbeli, a Hindi play that revolves around the subject of immortality, will be staged in the city on Friday evening
What do Maharaj Bali, Parashuram, Vibhishan, Hanuman, Kripacharya, Markandeya, Ved Vyas and Ashwatthama have in common? They are all immortal, and their stories are a part of the Puranas. Their stories, the decisions they took and the choices they made and how do they feel about it now — all these have been incorporated into a Hindi play, Amarbeli. Originally, Amarbeli was a khand kavya or epos written by late Umakant Malviya. It has been adapted for Hindi stage by Raghavendra Singh and will be performed in Pune at Maharashtra Cultural Centre’s Rang Mahotsav starting from January 26.

Talking about the play, Singh says, “The khand kavya contains poems on eight individuals. But our play has included the stories of seven people. We had to leave out Markandeya because we are building up on his character. In the khand kavya, each person comes and recites their anguish on the stage, through poems. We have broken down the individual narration and merged them into chorus form. We have used folk inputs like the narrative of Ram-Leela to take the story forward on stage.”

A production of Lokyaatri theatre group, Amarbeli seeks to tell people that their life has to be meaningful, whether it’s short or long. “These men, who have achieved immortality, are not happy with their actions. They also raise questions on the contemporary situation and liken them to the past. For instance Maharaj Bali voices his unhappiness at being tricked during the Vaman avatar. He wants to know why this fate befell him when he was governing the teen lok (prithvi, swarg and patal) wisely? This division of sur-asur hints at the caste discrimination of present times. For instance, we cannot see a Dalit in power. In his entry, Parashuram also ponders over his life, especially his punitive action against Karna. Vibhishan laments that he is known as ghar-bhedi (for having betrayed Ravan), and is ignored for his all other actions,” adds Singh.

The play is a comment on our society, past and present and argues that the right to critique, to ask questions about our religion and gods and goddesses is a part of our tradition. “We hope to discuss the present ills of corruption and lies through Amarbeli. We want to show what religion is in its true and pure form, and how we have changed its identity; we want atheism and such views to be considered. All these improvisations have been made to the play,” he explains.

When asked about the title, Singh says, “Amarbeli is a metaphor for a parasite creeper that sucks out the life out of a tree. The title hints that the lives of these seven men are now rendered meaningless.”

ST Reader Service
Hindi play Amarbeli to be staged at Jyotsna Bhole Sabhagruha, Tilak Road on January 26, 7.30 pm

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