It is the last day of the Mahabharata war: the city is burning, Kurukshetra is covered with the dead,
and only a few Kauravas survive. Egged on by the Kauravas, Ashwatthama releases the brahmastra,
the ultimate weapon which threatens to destroy the world. And Krishna—the embodiment of
compassion, - truth, and justice—is cursed by the Kauravas for causing the war.
One of the most significant plays of post—Independence India, Dharamvir Bharati’s Andha Yug
continues to raise pertinent moral and political issues, and has become all the more relevant in a
terrorized rift—stricken twenty—f1rst century.
‘Andha Yug is one of the great Indian plays of the last millennium, and in Alok Bhalla’s it has found
an ideal translator. He is sensitive to the complex tensions swirling within its epic edifice, not afraid to
enhance its muted nuances where necessary, or to go for a risky option when the choices are
unclear. Bhalla’s Andha Yug is a model in the fraught field of translation.’
'Dharamvir Bharati’s Andha Yug is a landmark in the history of Hindi drama. Alok Bhalla’s fine
translation is austere and rigorous, negotiating as it does, both the dimensions of the play—its epic
scale and the Spartan simplicity of its poetry
Andhra Yug would never have been written if it had been in my power not to write it! I was in a
dilemma when the idea of writing the play rose within me. It made me a little afraid. I knew that if I
set out to write it, I would never be able to turn back!
But, then, there is something called addiction——in accepting the challenge of a roaring sea, fighting
the high waves with one’s bare hands, plunging down to immeasurable depths, and, then, after facing
all the dangers, resurfacing with a few grains of faith, illumination, truth, and dignity—and, this
addiction is mingled with such deep agony and so much joy that one can never give it up. Andha Yug
was written to satisfy that addiction.
After reaching a certain stage one is no longer afraid. Frustration, dejection, bloodshed, vengeance,
disease, deformity, blindness—instead of hesitating, one faces them because hidden beneath are rare
grains of truth! One would not perish if one confronted them! ‘Let the world perish, not I!’
But no, why should the world perish either? Since I have shared its sufferings, how can the truth I
have discovered be mine alone? A time comes when the superficial distinction between the ‘self’ and
the ‘others’ is erased. They are no longer separate. This is the ‘whole’ truth. I have ‘persona1ly’
discovered it——but its lies in its being widely shared once again.
A Note to the Directors
I have tried to End answers to the problems raised in this verse play (drishya kavya) by seeking help
from the last half of the Mahabharata. The main plot of the story is well-known; only a few events
have been invented—a few characters and a few incidents. Classical aesthetic theories sanction such
interpolations. The two guards, who comment on the events throughout, are a bit like the ordinary
citizens who form the chorus in Greek plays; but they are also important symbolic figures. According
to the Bhagavata Purana, the name of the man who killed Lord Krishna is Jara’, but I have imagined
him as the incarnation of the Old Mendicant.
The entire plot is divided into live acts with an ‘Interlude’. There can be an interval after the
‘Interlude’. The stage design is not complicated: there is a permanent curtain at the back, and two
more curtains in addition. The proscenium curtain is raised at the beginning of each act and is not
dropped till the end of the act. Scene changes in the course of much act are indicated by the lifting or
dropping of the curtain in the middle of the stage. The curtains in the middle and at the back are not
to be painted- The stage must be as bare as possible. Lighting should be restrained but imaginative.
The choric songs are arranged between the acts in a style borrowed from the traditions of Indian folk
theatre. The chorus is either used to give information about events which are not shown on stage or
to underline the poignancy of the action. Sometimes, it also clarifies the symbolic importance of the
events. There should be two choric voices- of a woman and a man and the choric verses should be
divided between them, especially when the rhythm or tone changes. Instrumental music companying
the chorus should be kept at the minimum.
The dialogue is written in free verse. The ‘Interlude’ has sections which are written in poetic prose,
which has also been used elsewhere in the Play. In a long play it is important to change the rhythm to
avoid monotony. The exception is the dialogue between the two guards, which has the same rhythm
from beginning to end. It is not necessary; however, br the speeches of the other characters to follow
a specific rhythm and meter. A character should adopt the rhythms which would express his changing
emotions and feelings. A lyric may require a consistency of rhythm and tone, which a play may not-
Indeed, there are times when there is a rapid change in tone and rhythm in keeping with changing
feelings. This is specially so in the case of Sanjaya, where the changes are sudden.
When Andha Yug was first presented, the actors faced a peculiar difficulty. They either read their
dialogues as if they were written as rhythmic poetry or read them as prose pieces. The solution lies
somewhere in the middle. The emphasis should be on conveying the meaning rather than on meter,
but the poetic rhythms should also be heard. It is true that this play represents the beginning of the
tradition of verse plays, but the recent radio production ofAr1dha Yug by Shree Gopal Das
succeeded in obtaining a harmony among poetic rhythm, dramatic narrative, and meaning; indeed, its
use of volume, undertones, overtones, overlapping tones and tenor etc. revealed the boundless
possibilities, not only for the performance of this play, but also for the entire range of new poetry.
Basically, this verse play is designed for the stage. The published text has kept that in mind. The
radio production not only helped its cast, but also helped me in polishing its language. The published
text has also kept in mind the structures of folk—plays so that it can be adapted for open—air
performances. Imaginative directors can also create symbolic stage designs.
Back of the Book
ANDHA YUGDharamvir BharatiTranslated from Hindi by Alok Bhalla
Based on the last day of the Mahabharata war, Andha Yug is a profound meditation on the politics
of violence and aggressive selfhood.
‘Andha Yug is one of the great Indian plays of the last millennium, and in Alok Bhalla it
has found an ideal translator…Bhalla’s Andha Yug is a model in the fraught field of translation.’
‘Alok Bhalla’s fine translation is austere and rigorous, negotiating as it does, both the
dimensions of the play-its epic scale and the Spartan simplicity of its poetry.’
‘Bhalla has done for Bharati what the great English translators of recent years-Lattimore, Fitzgerald,
and Fagles-accomplished for Homer’s Greek epics: a rendering in measured yet forceful English
poetry the ecstatic temptation of both good and evil, and the sacred ground between them.’
Dharamvir Bharati (1926-1997), was a renowned Hindi novelist, poet, and playwright. His
novels, Gunahon Ka Devata (The God of Sins) and Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda (The Seventh Horse of
the Sun), are classics of Hindi literature.
Alok Bhalla is currently Visiting Professor of English at Jamia Millia Islamia,
New Delhi. He as published extensively on translation theory, literature, and politics.
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend