Friday, March 2, 2018

Agnivarsha: Girish Karnad's twisted version of a Mahabharata story part-3

Continuing from part-2, here we will look at some more deviations presented in the Agnivarsha play and the film.

Previous parts can be found here:
Part -1
Part - 2

Here we will look at two incidences mentioned in the epic and shown in the film. First is Raibhya's anger and other is Yavakrit's death.
Scene 3: Raibhya's anger

Actual story:
When Raibhya returns to his ashram he finds his daughter-in-law weeping. When asked for the reason, she tells him about Yavakrit. She tells him what Yavakrit had asked of her and how did she responded. Raibhya consoles her with kind words. He is then enraged at Yavakrit. He plucks out some of his hair from his matted locks and as soon as he throws it on ground, it splits open and a fierce rakshasa and a damsel replica of his daughter-in-law emerge from below. He orders the damsel to distract Yavakrit and orders the rakshasa to kill Yavakrit. The trident holding rakshasa and the damsel sped towards where Yavakrit was.

Story as per Agnivarsha:
In the film Agnivarsha, Raibhya is shown as a lusty, vengeful and evil person. He is jealous of his own son Paravasu because he, and not Raibhya himself, was called in to oversee the grand yagya of king Vrihadyumna. Raibhya considered it as his insult. It is also shown that he mistreats his daughter-in-law. He calls her characterless and catches her as soon as she returns after meeting Yavakrit. He tortures her and asks her whom had she met. Infuriated, Vishakha, the daughter-in-law yells that she had met Yavakrit. Raibhya is livid with anger. He sits in tapa mudra and it appears that through his yogic vision, he realizes that by doing that heinous crime of touching Vishakha, Yavakrit has challenged him. He accepts the challenge and with one strand of his hair he produces a fierce rakshasa (the role was played by the talented choreographer, actor, director Prabhu Deva) holding a trident. No damsel appear. Instead, Vishakha asks Paravasu's younger brother Arvavasu to go to Yavakrit's father's ashram and ask the shudra gatekeeper (whose name was 'Andhaka' in the film) to keep Yavakrit safe. Since they showed in the film that Vishakha loved Yavakrit before her marriage, she runs to save his life.

The distortion in presentation of Raibhya's character is outrageous and beyond comprehension. A revered sage is shown as lusty, vengeful and defiled man (though the role was played exceptionally well by veteran actor Mohan Aghashe). It is later revealed in the film that since Raibhya was jealous of his own son Paravasu, he started sexually exploiting Vishakha in her husband's absence and thought that Vishakha was his own property. As soon as he learnt that Vishakha spent some time with Yavakrit, he becomes angry and produces a brahma rakshasa to kill him. Also worth noting is that in the epic, it is clearly mentioned that Raibhya comforts his daughter-in-law. It would have been beyond digestion for the modern scholars and academicians to agree that a woman was forgiven by her father-in-law in ancient India even after she committed adultery, though in fear. So they weaved a story of a lusty old man who doesnt want to lose a chance to exploit his daughter-in-law's life. Its shameful.

Scene 4: Yavakrit's death

Actual story
The damsel disguised as Paravasu's wife lures Yavakrit and throws away the sacred water Yavakrit had prepared to save himself. As soon as the sacred water is gone, Yavakrit runs towards his father's hermitage. A shudra was guarding the gates of Bharadwaj's hermitage. He was blind. As Yavakrit tried to run into the hermitage, the shudra held him in his strong arms not allowing him to get in. At that moment, the fierce rakshasa appears and kills Yavakrit with the trident. After killing Yavakrit, the rakshasa and the damsel returned to Raibhya and then lived there serving the sage.
Meanwhile when sage Bharadwaj returns to his hermitage and learns of his son's death, he is stricken with grief and anger. He laments his son's death and curses Raibhya. He says that Raibhya will be killed by his own son Paravasu and after giving this curse, he cremates Yavakrit's body and enters into a pyre himself.

Story as per Agnivarsha
In the film Agnivarsha, it is shown that Vishakha goes to meet Yavakrit where Yavakrit reveals that it was his own plan to lure Vishakha in desolation and to have her father-in-law Raibhya know about their little adventure. He knew that this will enrage Raibhya. He had planned to challenge Raibhya to defeat him in yogic powers. He also reveals Vishakha that he has some sacred water which will protect him from the rakshasa. Vishakha feels cheated. To make Yavakrit pay for his treachery, she throws away the sacred water. Then Yavakrit is scared and runs for his life but is caught by the rakshasa who kills him. Bharadwaja is not at all shown in the film so the incidence of his death is not applicable. The rakshasa plays an important part in the film later as well.

Dont know why the film did not show the duplicate of Raibhya's daughter-in-law, who, as per her father-in-law's orders, lures Yavakrit and make him lose his sacred water pot. May be it was not possible to show a woman who was already exploited by her father-in-law to execute his orders. So they showed the story that she was used by her ex-lover to exact revenge on her father-in-law. Her pride wounded, she threw away his protection thus helping her father-in-law kill him.

More deviation on this interesting story in the next post.
Click here to read the next post in this series, Part -4

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