Friday, March 2, 2018

Agnivarsha: Girish Karnad's twisted version of a Mahabharata story part-4

Continuing from part 3, here we look at more deviations in the Raibhya and his story as per Mahabharata and as per the film Agnivarsha.
Previous posts on this can be found here:
Part - 2
Part - 3

Here we will look at two more incidences from the story and discuss its deviation in the film.

Scene 5: Raibhya's death

Actual story
Raibhya had two sons: Paravasu and Arvavasu. They both were invited by the king Vrihadyumna to perform a great yagya. While they were away performing the sacrifice, Raibhya used to stay with his daughter-in-law in his hermitage. One night, Paravasu, the elder son, returned home in the night. His father was wearing black dear skin and wandering in forest. Because of dark night and lack of visibility he mistook Raibhya for a wild animal. He shot an arrow and killed his own father. This way the curse of Bharadwaj came true. Paravasu then approached his younger brother Arvavasu and explained him of his folly. He asks his brother to perform the funeral rites of their father and to later join him in the sacrifice. He argues that Arvavasu alone cannot complete the sacrifice but he, Paravasu, can. The obedient younger brother agrees.

Story as per Agnivasrha
Since the film showed that Raibhya was jealous of his son Paravasu as he was chosen the chief priest of the sacrifice, the filmmakers had to resort to a different version of Raibhya's death story. It is shown that Paravasu visits his home one night. (It is shown in the film that only Paravasu was involved in the sacrifice and not Arvavasu.) He meets his father who taunts him for leaving the yagya ceremony and coming to his home like a thief in night. He also boasts that he will outlive his feeble minded sons and that the king will repent his decision of making Paravasu the chief priest. Paravasu listens silently. Disgusted by Paravasu, Raibhya leaves for a walk in the night. Paravasu then meets Arvavasu and Vishakha, his own wife. He had learnt about Vishakha and Yavakrit. Vishakha confesses of her love for Yavakrit. She also tells Paravasu that his father Raibhya is molesting her. Paravasu takes up bow and arrow, aims at his wife, but instead shoots his father. When Vishakha tells Paravasu that he will now never know whether she was telling the truth. Paravasu replies that doesnt matter. He had come down that night to kill his father only. He tells that his father was jealous of him and wanted to do something to disrupt the yagya and cause the shaming of his wife's name. He just killed the old man so he could concentrate on the yagya. Vishakha is left speechless. Meanwhile when Arvavasu finds out that his father is dead, he is devastated. Paravasu tells his brother that he killed his father by mistake. He also asks him to carry out the funeral duties and perform the required 'prayashchit' (repentence) on his behalf. The confused but innocent Arvavasu agrees.

God knows why they twisted the story to portray Raibhya as a jealous father. Perhaps the mention of killing his own father clad in a black deer skin in night by mistake seemed too flimsy for the makers of the film and play. Why would a man, who left his young wife with his old father alone at home, returns and kills the old man? The immediate answer, that would come to mind of those who believe that ancient India was repressive of women, would be that the old man was molesting the young daughter-in-law. This event as shown in the film further aggravated the corrupt representation of old sages.

Scene 6: Paravasu's betrayal

Actual story
Arvavasu returns to his elder brother after performing last rites of his father at the grand sacrifice, Paravasu reprimands him and calls him a 'brahmin slayer'. He asks king Vrihadyumn to throw Arvavasu out of the sacrifice ceremony. Arvavasu is shocked at this behavior.

Story as per Agnivarsha
The film adds a lot of melodrama and back story after Paravasu leaves from his hermitage home towards the place of the sacrifice. Arvavasu performs the final rites of his father and hence could not go to meet parents of Nithiliayi a tribal girl whom he loved. When Arvavasu couldnt come to meet her parents, the tribal people believe that Arvavasu had ditched her like all high caste men do to lower castes. Nithilayi is married off to some other man. Arvavasu is devastated. He anyways, dejected comes to the place of sacrifice, where his older brother Paravasu accuses him of killing his own father. He calls him a rakshasa and asks the king to throw him out. Arvavasu is shocked.

Apart from the love angle of Arvavasu, the story is intact. However, the interesting aspect is why did Paravasu lie? In both the epic Mahabharata and the film, Paravasu's actions are filled with malice. The major difference in the two representations is that in the actual story, both Arvavasu and Paravasu were involved in performing the sacrifice. It was only Paravasu who returns to his home one night and kills his father by mistake. He then returns to his brother saying that he (Arvavasu) cannot perform the sacrifice alone but he (Paravasu) can. So he asks his younger brother to perform the funeral rites. After the rites are done, Arvavasu returns to the sacrifice where he is accused by his brother. In the film, Arvavasu is shown as an innocent man whom everyone use for their own benefit. He is also shown as very obedient, like in the epic. He does perform the final rites and the prayashchit (repentence) on his brother's behalf and returns. Paravasu, however, the self-centered man who wanted to take the entire credit of the sacrifice ridicules him and asks the king to throw him out.

More on this series in next post.

Click here to read the final post in this series, Part - 5

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