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Dance Drama Revives the Epic Character of Ekalavya

May 2007
Dance Drama Revives the Epic Character of Ekalavya

With the recent release of a big banner film staring superstar Amitabh Bachchan as Ekalavya, this classic character from the Mahabharatha has been revived for our times. Atlanta recently saw its own revival Ekalavya in the form of a dance drama stage in six scenes at the Hindu Temple of Atlanta. Mr. Prasanna Kasthuri in the role of Ekalavya and Mr. Pulikeshi Kasthuri in the multiple roles of father of Ekalavya, Arjuna, and Drona were remarkable.

The performance brought to life through great foot work, unforgettable facial expressions and vivid eye moments, used three distinct elements: natya (dance), bhaava (expressions) and abhinaya (gestures). Simple yet elegant, the scenery of the sets was impeccable. Though all the six acts were flawless, the scene where Ekalavya learns the sacred weaponry was magnificent.

In the opening act Ekalavya gets the blessings from his father to go to Hasthinavathi to learn the skills of warfare by the great Guru of Kauravas and Pandavas, Dronacharya. In the second act Ekalavya sees the glory of princesses, palaces, decorated chariots and vast armies of Kauravas and Pandavas. He joins Ashwathama, the son of Drona . But jealous Arjuna convinces Dronacharya to throw him out of the school. Drona urges Ekalavya to learn by watching him from a distance under the watchful eyes of Ashwathama. In the third act, Ekalavya learns of the demise of his father and is compelled to return home in the forest.

Ekalavya, in the fourth act, practices the skills of warfare in the presence of an idol of Dronacharya in the forest. In his dream, Drona teaches him all the art and skills of sacred weaponry including, "Vayu Astra", "Agni Astra", "Varuna Astra" and even "Shabdavedi", the art of archery just by listening even blindfolded. Arjuna happens to come to the same place and sees the great archery skills of Ekalavya and feels betrayed by his Guru in the next act.

In the concluding act, Drona bound by his earlier promise to Arjuna is compelled and asks for the right thumb of Ekalavya as "Guru Dakshina" (Teacher's fee). Ekalavya burdened with sorrow, yet devoted to his teacher, without hesitation, sacrifices his right thumb. Many in the audience shed tears when this scene was enacted. Prasanna Kasthuri showcased the art of weaponry in a realistic method while Pulikeshi Kasthuri played several roles with ease and convinced the audience of the character he had donned in each act.

Dr. Jayanthi Srinivasiah coordinated the program. The manager of the HTA, Mr. Lakshmi Narasimhan assisted in making this event successful. No doubt the great epic story of deception, retribution and triumph, enacted by the Kasthuri brothers, will be ever etched in the memory of those who witnessed the dance drama.

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