HYDERABAD: Chanakya. Vishnugupta. Kautilya. Three names for someone who existed 2,000 years ago and gave India not just its political treatise ‘Arthashastra’, but also the founder of Mauryan Empire: King Chandragupta Maurya, who brought the Golden Age in ancient India also known as Aryavrata. What makes the role of Chanakya more important other than he being a teacher, political advisor, and economist, was that he dreamt of one country. One Jambudvipa, one Aryavrata, one India. Much has been written about the founder of ancient economics based on several versions of legends. Recently ArtLife Events presented the play Chanakya at Ravindra Bharathi to a houseful of audience. The writer and director S Venkat Narayana Murthy did a good job. Though the events in the play were historically not absolute, the actors pulled the narrative.
The play revolves around Chanakya, played by Venkat Murthy, who chooses Mura’s young son Chandragupta (Sasmit Parkhe) as the king of Magadh Empire as he decides to usurp Dhana Nand (Vivek Pandey) the ruler of the kingdom. The young lad goes with him to Taxila for a long period of training. The narrative was smooth and Venkat suited the role of Kautilya with the intrinsic anger blended with the command of a born-leader. His chemistry was more impressive with the arbitrary Nand ruler than his disciple and the king-in-making – Chandragupta. The acting skills of each member showed the effort and training they underwent. Despite the initial glitch of poor sound system, people enjoyed the performance especially the grand set and the changing multimedia screen which provided the backdrop for many scenes.
What appeared odd was to see the King Dhana Nand wawearing a satlada, the seven-layered pearl necklace, which is an ornament of Deccan and belongs to the Nizami tradition and couldn’t have ever been possibly worn by a king who existed 2,000 years ago in Magadh. It was impressive to see a group of dancers entertaining the king in their finery. Though it appeared as a disconnect when Princess Durdhara, the Magadh King’s daughter, appears in the similar garments, while romancing Chandragupta, one can easily get confused about her rank.
Despite these hiccups the play made the audience seated especially when Emperor Alexander on a mission to conquer the Indian subcontinent appears. The Greek victor, never met Kautilya who was his contemporary while he was in the subcontinent to expand his empire. He was near Punjab then. Chanakya had sensed the danger of a large army invasion and tried to warn the Nand king but he instead insults him and thus his mission to find a better ruler begins. The play is worth watching though there are creases which need to be ironed out.
— Saima Afreen