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Japan's Mini Mahabharata

Japan's Mini Mahabharata

Author: News Report
Publication: www.hindu.org
Date: November 21, 2003

Mention of a staged "Mahabharata" at once brings to mind Sir Peter Brook's 10-hour version of the Hindu epic poem, which debuted at the Avignon International Drama Festival in 1985. This inspired version by Director Satoshi Miyagi staged recently in Tokyo lasts just two hours. The original "Mahabharata," written in Sanskrit, comprises 100,000 stanzas, and is filled with history, philosophy and spirituality which describes a civil war in the Bharata kingdom, near present-day Delhi, between the five sons of the deceased King Pandu and their 100 stepbrothers. Director Miyagi has selected one episode, known as the "Nalacaritam," portraying "Mahabharata" as a pan- Asian drama set in Japan's mythical past. The play tells the story of a gorgeous goddess- princess named Damayanty who, despite receiving proposals from many divine suitors, chooses to marry the human Nala, a prince of Bharata. After a few years of peaceful married life, Nala is seduced by the devil. Having lost his self- respect, Nala gambles away his money and property and forfeits his succession to his younger brother. After husband and wife are exiled, the despairing prince possessed by a devil, abandons Damayanty. Nala struggles to overcome his wicked heart, while his beautiful wife is steadfast in her love for him. The two are finally reunited and wisely rule the troubled kingdom. Though the play emphasizes the power of faith and loyalty, its strength is the way it lays bare human weakness in the face of temptation and offers the abiding possibility that we can learn from our mistakes. The audience, before the show get to see the "Gandharan and Indian Sculpture in the Second and Third Centuries" so they can slip into the play's world all the better. The play incorporates various elements from southeast Asian culture: live Indonesian gamelan music played on a range of percussion instruments; wayang kulit (Indonesian shadow play); and the use of a masked, white-robed "chorus. The director had divided the roles in this way to express the "special tension created by the sudden changes in this play."
 


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