He-Rose, a play that draws parallels between Arjuna and Achilles

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Chandigarh

18 April 2024

DIVYA AZAD

Blending the best of French and Indian theatre,

Adishakti Laboratory for Theatre Art Research, Pondicherry and the National School Of Arts And Techniques Du Théatre (ENSATT), Lyon, came together to present the play He-Rose, which was premiered at Tagore Theatre here today in partnership with French Embassy & French Institute in India.

Written by Nimmy Raphel and directed by Vinay Kumar of Adishakti and assisted by Amaud Guennad of ENSATT, HE-ROSE depicted the tragic saga of two mythological heroes, Arjuna from Veda Vyasa’s Bhagavad Gita and Achilles from Homer’s Iliad. The play HE-ROSE was about two personalities from two different cultures and was in a liminal realm between glory and tragedy.

The play began with thundering sounds of the drum. Wounded and dead soldiers and wailing women and children conveyed the trauma and tragedy of the war. Since it was an inter-cultural production, Arjuna was played by a French actor, and Achilles by an Indian.

At the heart of He-Rose lies a profound inquiry into the nature of ‘Heroism’, drawing parallels between iconic figures such as Arjuna from the Mahabharata and Achilles from the Iliad. The production challenges conventional notions of heroism, inviting audiences to contemplate the interplay between vulnerability and courage. Through a series of thought-provoking sequences the play aims to celebrate the multifaceted nature of heroism.

What Achilles was to the Greeks at Troy, Arjuna was to the Pandavas at Kurukshetra. Though both were skilled warriors they were initially hesitant to join the war. However the death of their dear ones (Achilles friend and Arjuna’s son) made them wage a war of revenge.

In depicting Arjuna and Achilles at their most war-weary and vulnerable moment as they yearn to become ordinary men again, the play subverts the usually grandiose narrative about war conquests and trophies and the heroism trope, by pointing the spotlight at the untold stories of war, and of those martyred for the “benefit of a few”.

The exchange between Arjuna and Achilles involves questions such as for whom the war is waged, for man or the Gods, the agency of commanders over their destiny, and what constitutes true virtuousness and heroism. From both being reluctant warriors to swapping gender (Arjuna disguising as Brihannala/Achilles as Issa) that are also signifiers of a feminine side, the warriors change not just the rules of the game, but abandon the game itself; returning to their true selves and embracing what they truly believe in, or take simple pleasure from.

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