The Fire & The Rain
Title: The Fire and The Rain
Author: Girish Karnard
Originally written in Kannada, Agni Mattu Male is the sixth play written by Girish Karnard in 1998 and translated to English by himself. The play is based on the myth of Yavakri appearing in chapters 135-138 of the Vana Parva (Forest Canto) of the Mahabharatha. The structure of the play is originally based on Bharata Muni’s Natya Shastra, an encyclopedia of Indian dramaturgy.
Plot and Observations:
The drama is small and consists of three acts with a prologue and epilogue. Karnard, through his literary aptitude, exploits the myth of Yavakrita and vividly divulges the inner psyche of the human mind through its characters. The drama might seem very simple as well as overwhelmingly complicated depending on the comprehension and interpretation of the reader.
It appears to be a simple story staged in a drought-ridden kingdom where the king organizes the great Yagnya, fire sacrifice to please the god of rain. However, the notion of sacrifice and the reward unfolds the inner minds of the characters.
The first act covers Aravasu-Nittilai’s wedding prospect meeting, Vishaka’s reunion with her past lover, revenge of the sage, the birth of Brahmarkshasha and the death of Yavakri. These events convey the emotions of love and revenge while sarcastically highlighting the Brahmin’s tendencies to attain universal knowledge for fulfilling their private ends.
The second act takes a wild turn with the return of Paravasu, Vishaka’s outburst and confessions, father’s envy to his son, killing of Ribhya and betrayal of a brother. This act is full of vengeance, jealousy, narcissism and the umbra and penumbra of a society with rigid caste stigmatization and male dominance surfacing as misogyny.
Ironic to the second act, showing a stormy world characterized with all the greed, wickedness and insensitivity, in the third act we see Nitthilai running away from her husband and taking care of a dejected and injured Aravasu portraying a fragile world filled with love, generosity and sensitivity.
The conclusion is an enclave that bridges the gulf between the main plot and the sub-plot and very delicately brings out the reversal of events. We see the emotional explosion of Aravasu-Paravasu doubling through the parallel characters of Indra-Vritra. The ‘honour’ killing of Nittilai and Aravasu’s liberation of the Brahmarkshasha forces us to sit back and comprehend the justification of the title while understanding the actual meaning of humanity, sacrifice and love.
The dram is rich in metaphors. The fire representing the villainy-stormy world is put off by love, benevolence and sacrifice picturing the rain in the last line of the drama. The ending leaves us with the most uncomfortable yet the most realistic form of love, liberation
It’s perhaps for this unique way of the playwright that makes Girish Karnard the iconic figure he is in Kannada literature. The episode he picked from the epic reflects his views on the social structures in India revolving around women. The women in the drama are so different from each other yet their intertwined fates which are pivotal in the story are so similar, not just within the characters but also in the stories we read and hear about violence against women emerging from the cracks in the egos of the dominant men. Like most of his work, this is also very much relevant in the current times.