British playwright Peter Brook’s le Mahabharata was the first stage adaptation of the Indian saga. It toured worldwide, but gave India a miss. Thirty years later, a sequel – Battlefield – is set to premiere in Mumbai.
Acclaimed British playwright and filmmaker Peter Brook directed the first and only stage adaptation of the entire epic of Mahabharata, in 1985. The nine-hour-long play brought the complete 90,000 verse-long Sanskrit text to life, in French. With a multi-national cast – 25 actors from 16 countries – le Mahabharata has gone down in history as the most critically acclaimed adaptation of the great Indian epic.
Now, thirty years since le Mahabharata premiered, Brook is revisiting the epic, for a sequel titled Battlefield.
It draws on one section, where the survivors of the war try to make sense of the horrors they have experienced – and perpetrated. This production opens in Mumbai this Saturday, March 5.
For Brook, the driving force to revive the epic was the need to revisit the ending of Le Mahabharata. Marie Estienne, co-director for Battlefield, says, “We wanted to emphasise on the devastation the war left behind: the coming of kali yuga (dark age) and the irrelevance of power when the earth as we know it has been destroyed. The current situation of the world prompted the return of the epic,” said Estienne. “The text of Mahabharata is open to interpretation. It inspires a person to look within himself and understand right from wrong.”
In a stark contrast to le Mahabharata’s huge cast, Battlefield uses four actors (Carole Karemera, Jared McNeill, Ery Nzaramba and Sean O’Callaghan). The play opened in February, 2016, at the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris, and is now touring the world. “We very excited to finally perform in India. We hope to share this extraordinary story, and bring to the limelight the rich past of this country,” says Estienne.