Anuradha Kunda

Girish Karnad's 'The Fire and the Rain' – performed by Phoenix, the Experimental Theatre Group

The Fire and the Rain is a play by the reputed Indian playwright Girish Karnad. The play is based on the myth of Raivya, Paravasu, Arvasu  and Yavakri, described in the Vanaparva of the Mahabharata, narrated by the sage Lomash. Karnad however has subverted the original myth and created a thoroughly stage-worthy version. Phoenix,the experimental  theatre group, has adapted the play in Bengali, and related it to the spiritual crises of The Wasteland .

Raivya and Varadwaj are the two great Brahmins who compete to become the chief priest in the fire-sacrifice which is arranged by the king to invoke rain as the country is going through long years of famine and drought. The king selects Paravasu as the chief priest as he is young. Varadwaj dies of grief. Raivya is jealous of his son’s status. Varadwaja’s son Yavakri goes to the forest to attain enlightment from Indra  and is blessed with Brahmagnyan after ten years. Yavakri returns to avenge the death of his father and uses his former lady-love Vishakha, now  the wife of Paravasu as a bait. In the absence of Paravasu, Vishakha is sexually exploited by her father-in-law and easily succumbs to the seduction of Yavakri. As Raivya is aware of this, he creates the Brahme-Rakhshasha, Kritya  to kill Yavakri. Vishakha comes to know that Yavakri has deceived her and pours out the charmed water that could have saved Yavakri. Yavakri is murdered by Kritya. Paravasu comes home secretly from the fire-sacrifice and kills Raivya. He plans to put the entire blame on his younger brother Arvasu, innocent, bold and unorthodox, fiercely in love with a tribal girl Nittilai, as vibrant and lively as Arvasu. 

The blame of killing Raivya is cunningly put on Arvasu and the mob beats him severely. Nittilai, who is married away to a boy of her own caste, leaves her husband to nurse Arvasu. A local theatre manager offers Arvasu to take part in his play. Arvasu has always wanted to act but had been barred from doing so by Paravasu and the society as a Brahmin is not supposed to act in a play. But now Arvasu is already convicted and denies all social rules. He plays the part of Vritra in the myth of Indra, Vishwarup and Vritra. Indra, the  king of Heavens, is jealous of his brother Vishwarup and plans to murder him. Vritra tries to protect Vishwarup but Indra drives him away and kills Vishwarup. Paravasu reacts to watch the play within the play. The fire-sacrifice is looted by the hungry mob. Nittilai is murdered by her husband. Paravasu enters the fire and Arvasu decides to follow him when the voice of Indra is heard. Indra offers a boon to Arvasu. Arvasu decides to ask for the life of Nittilai….. Kritya comes and begs for his liberation from the state of limbo. Arvasu learns to be selfless and asks Indra to liberate the soul of Kritya.

Rain comes at the end, at the exchange and realization of sacrifice and the land becomes fertile. Phoenix,the experimental theatre group ends it with a rendition and chanting of Datta, Damyata, Dayadhwam... Shantih, Shantih, Shantih.

Adapted to Bengali and directed by Anuradha Kunda
Raivya and stage-manager: Mehedi Hassan
Paravasu: Dipankar Datta
Arvasu: Kedarnath Banerji
Yavakri: Arka Das
Kritya: Chotan Halder
Vishakha: Manila Saha
Nittilai: Arpita Saha
King: Sujay
Andhaka: Avijit
Brahmins: Partho. Priyanka. Avijit
Music: Anuradha Kunda
Sound: Prasenjit

A Phoenix, the Experimental Theatre Group Presentation


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