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The web of words

Wednesday, August 29, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

Ila Arun conceived a unique tribute to writer Dr Dharmvir Bharti – a show, directed by KK Raina, that encompasses his letters to his wife Pushpa Bharti, blended with scenes from two of his masterworks 'Kanupriya' and 'Andha Yug'.

Before the days of instant phone calls, SMS and email, the only method of communication was the letter. Pushpa Bharti collected the tender love letters he wrote to her and over 600 of them were complied and published as 'Ek Sahityik Ke Prem Patra', unedited, so that his lyrical as well as mundane words are preserved for posterity.

Ila Arun plays the narrator, with Varun Bhadola as Bharti and Rajeshwari Sachdev as Pushpa Bharti, as well as Radha from 'Kanupriya', as she yearns for Krishna, who has left her behind to pursue his destiny as ruler and warrior. The long poem, has Radha in 'viraha' mood, reminiscing about the absent Krishna and wondering what he means to her.

In contrast to the bittersweet romance of 'Kanupriya', is the rage of 'Andha Yug' (considered a theatre classic), which is set on the last day of the brutal war of Kurukshetra, in the 'Mahabharat'. It is a powerful anti-war statement, and in a heartrending scene, enacted by Ila Arun, Gandhari blames Krishna for the tragedy and havoc caused by the war he could have prevented. When she takes off the blindfold (she covered her eyes when she was married to the blind Kaurava king Dhritrasthra) and sees the corpses of her sons, she curses Krishna with the destruction of his dynasty and a lonely death.

But between the two worlds of literature and two incarnations of Krishna, is the reality of Bharti's love for Pushpa, even when he was married to Kanta. From all accounts, it was a consensual triangle, that caused no turmoil in their lives. It takes some courage to lay bare one's life to readers, Pushpa Bharti allowed the publication of the letters in her lifetime.

In one of those memorable moments offered by theatre, she was present at the show (at Prithvi Theatre), was invited on stage and spoke briefly of he “fairytale” relationship with Bharti. She also expressed surprise and delight that the audience had come to watch, and stayed on for, a production that used such difficult Hindi. Kudos to Ila Arun and KK Raina for a production that would delight a connoisseur of Hindi literature.

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