Flashback Ek Aur Dronacharya
Age Of Compromise

Deepa Gahlot

Dr Shankar Shesh's powerful play, Ek Aur Dronacharya, examines a power structure that has succeeded in killing courage, from the Mahabharat to the present. Several productions are available to view online.

A play first written over forty years ago, does not appear dated, because the political system still remains corrupt, and an honest person is often unable to fight it, despite lofty intentions.

Arvind is a college professor, who believes that he is upright and idealistic, but when it is time for his integrity to be put to test, he fails. His story runs parallel to that of Guru Dronacharya from the Mahabharat, whose starving son and nagging wife sent him to the palace, where he became a teacher to the Pandava and Kaurava princes. But he became so caught up with power and privilege, that he demanded the thumb of a lower-caste Eklavya, so that he could not be a superior archer to the Kshatriya Arjun. When Draupadi was going through the vastraharan in the Kaurava court, he remained silent.

Rajkumar, the son of the college President is caught cheating, and another student Chandu is blamed. Arvind intends to punish the real culprit, but his wife's pleas and his friend Yadu's advice, prevent him from doing the right thing. The ghost of Vimlendu, a professor who was killed for standing up to the corrupt system, appears to heighten the confusion in Arvind's mind.

Arvind is made principal as a reward for his cooperation, and gradually becomes complicit in the President's crooked schemes. When Rajkumar attempts to rape a fellow student Anuradha, Arvind wants to support her, but again his cowardice forces him to compromise, as a result of which she is murdered.

He is seen as a modern-day Dronacharya, who allowed his greed and fear to weaken him. And once he has stifled conscience to ally with the wicked president, there was no way out of the quagmire. The playwright mocks Arvind's hypocrisy, but leaves it to the audience to judge him for his failings or forgive his spinelessness – after all, how many would be willing to suffer for their beliefs? This is one of Shesh's finest plays, and has been performed by several groups all over the country. The best-known production by IPTA, starring Aanjjan Srivastav, Sulabha Arya and Akhilendra Mishra, is not yet online.

(Deepa Gahlot is a journalist, columnist, author and curator. Some of her writings are on deepagahlot.com)

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