A play by Ratan Thiyam [born 1948] on the sub-theme of Mahabharat is always something to look forward to. And ‘Chakravyuha’ is no exception. It is based on the Mahabharat war when Abhimanyu, son of Arjun and Subhadra, breaks into Chakravyuha set by Dronacharya. While in Chennai I got an opportunity to enjoy this remarkable play thanks to a young theatre group 'Masquerade Youth Theatre'
[MYT] led by young Dushantya Gunashekhar. They staged this difficult play with remarkable professional competence.
Thiyam’s play had won Fringe First award at the Commonwealth art festival in 1986. It is a seminal play that discusses the moral dilemma. In fact the entire story of Mahabharat is full of moral dilemmas and Chakravyuha is no exception. Thiyam’s play questions whether Abhimanyu was a scapegoat or martyr or a victim of his own foolhardiness. The Mahabharat war is in progress and it is the 13th day of war. The Kauravas are suffering heavy losses everyday. Duryodhana taunts his army chief Dronacharya for secretly wishing the victory of Pandavas. Dronacharya decides to set up Chakravyuha which only Arjuna knows how to break in and break out. Since on that fateful day Arjuna is engaged in different theatre of war, Pandavas are left with no choice but to field young Abhimanyu. While in womb of his mother Abhimanyu has overheard the secret of breaking into Chakravuyha which Arjuna was narrating to his wife Subhadra. While Arjun was narrating this secret half way through Subhadra fell asleep and yet-to-be born Abhimanyu was left with incomplete secret. He knew how to break in but not how to break out.
The Pandava warriors like Yudhishtiar and Bhima convince Abhimanyu to lead the charge and they will save him and bring him back safely. Abhimanyu realizes that this is a matter of family honor and he has no alternative. He decides to take up the challenge. Though he successfully breaks into the Chakravuaha he cannot come out and is brutally killed by the Kauravas. The play ends with Abhimanyu’s death but does not discuss the repercussions of Abhimanyu’s death. Chakravyuha is a short 80 minutes play, which has two important monologues. One is by Shakuni, the scheming uncle of Kauravs and Duryodhan.
The MYT has produced a brilliant play under the able direction of Dushanta who also plays Sutradhar as well as Shakuni. This is the second production of MYT founded in 2009. Thiyam’s play was originally written in Manipuri and translated in English by Kavita Nagpal. What needs a special mention is the use of martial art scenes designed by Guru Rajkumar of National School of Drama. Similarly a special mention needs to be mentioned by Uchit Nair who plays Abhimanyu. This young boy shows remarkable maturity. The way he communicates boyish curiosity to know about the intricacies of Chakravyu while being in womb and his desperation when his mother fall asleep, is a treat to watch. Director Dushyant has used the space of theatre quite properly. Consequently the war scenes leave an impact behind. Thiyam’s play has monologue by Shakuni where he charges Krishna of dirty politics by letting a young Abhimanyu into Chakravuvya was certain to die. This leaves audience in meditative mood to reflect about the real intentions of Krishna. This is indeed good play. Since the group is young, one can expect better shows in future.