Andha Yug

AAR-MFF23-Andha-Yug-photo-by-Anamika-TiwaryWar leaves no winners. Victor or loser, both sides face loss. It’s the ones left behind who must come to grips with the loss. Is it better to lose your life in the conflict or be one of those who mourns?

Dharamvir Bharati wrote Andha Yug in Hindi in 1954. This production is in Hindi with surtitles, but the story has been tightened from its original five acts to two acts to meet the time limitation of an hour.

You’ve possibly heard of The Bhagavad Gita. What you probably don’t realise is that The Bhagavad Gita, despite its size, is only 700 verses of a much larger work, The Mahabharata.

This bigger work contains several interrelated stories on a variety of topics. Andha Yug takes place during the last days of the Mahabharata war. The noble heroes, the Pandavas, engage in the war with their opponents, the Kauravas, and almost decimate them.

Andha Yug focuses on the grief of Queen Gandhari (Anshu Adrekar) after the war claims all her sons, even though she was a key player in starting the conflict. It also focuses on Ashwatthama’s (Hem Tiwary’s) rage at the injustice of how his father is killed.

I approached this play as an outsider. I have a passing familiarity with Indian culture, but my heritage is a combination of Caucasian and Aboriginal Australian. And I don’t speak a word of Hindi.

Yet I had no trouble connecting to the play for several reasons. First, the story is compelling. Second, the surtitles on a screen above the stage allowed me to follow the dialogue while still letting me focus on the acting. Third, the acting was cosmic. And fourth, I am grieving for someone as close to me as family.

Let me drill down into the performances. Hem Tiwary as Ashwatthama gave an impassioned, angry performance. His rage was so convincing, it was almost scary.

In contrast, Anshu Adrekar as Gandhari gave an understated performance. Gandhari’s response to grief was to lament what she had lost. Adrekar’s performance was full of grace and gentleness.

One character sought revenge, the other regretted the finality of death.

Who will get the most out of this place? If you’re from an Indian background or you’re an Indophile, it’s a no-brainer. But this story has broader appeal than that. If you’ve ever been affected by grief for someone close, then it’s just as equally a must-see.

Part of the appeal of seeing Fringe shows is pushing yourself to see shows that are a stretch. You won’t be disappointed with Andha Yug.

Andha Yug
Club Voltaire, 14 Raglan Street, Melbourne
Performance: 4 October 2023
Season: 4 – 8 October 2023 (ended)

Image: Andha Yug – photo by Anamika Tiwary

Review: Daniel G. Taylor