Circle Theatre Company’s production of Pratham Parth is based on Buddhadeb Bose’s 1969 verse play in Bangla. It looks at the Mahabharata from the perspective of one of its most fascinating characters, Karna: an outsider whose ostensibly lowly origins are the cause of repeated humiliation, but who remains embroiled in the power play of the Kuru and Pandava clans. The play opens in Karna’s private quarters in Kurukshetra on the eve of the great battle. One by one, Kunti, Draupadi and Krishna approach Karna, each hoping to use her or his special relationship with the great warrior to persuade him either to cross over to the Pandava side or remain neutral.
The play has the advantage of having a storyline already known to pretty much everyone in the audience, which means that the actors are left free to explore the moral and psychological conflicts of their characters. But only Kunti (B Gauri) comes close to doing any such thing. Padma Damodaran’s Draupadi comes across as merely arch and flirtatious, almost fluffy. Ramesh Manchanda’s generally competent portrayal of Karna as the devastated son/jilted lover/vengeful rival is undermined by frequent over-the-top histrionics. B Gauri’s Kunti, however, is flawless; she is utterly convincing as a woman torn between her status as Kshatriya kul-vadhu and her position as a mother who wants nothing more than to be reunited with her elder son. The Doordarshan-style piped music introduced at crucial moments, however, ends up making even this affecting scene less credible.
Director Bapi Bose’s lighting and costumes are innovative, managing to achieve a rich look without being fussy. The choreographed sequence with Sangeeta Sharma depicting Karna’s innermost desires is an interesting element, but the Rajasthani puppets that randomly appear (and just as randomly disappear) left us a bit confused, as did the climactic sequence, where the small boy we first assumed was Baby Krishna turned out to be Baby Karna. This is an ambitious production, but not an entirely successful one. The excessively Sanskritised Hindi – employed deliberately by Bose and his collaborator Manish Manoja – doesn’t help. Trisha Gupta
Source : Time Out Delhi Vol. 1 Issue 3, May 4 -17, 2007