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18 Days...

June 23, 2024

'18 Days' is about the war as described in the Mahabharata, one of the two important epics of India. It pertains to the symbolic end of rule by devatas and start of world run by men. It is about statecraft, politics, betrayal, avarice, kingdoms, relationships and more. For Hindus, it also is foundational ethics for life through karma and dharma.

Ravindra Kalakshetra
Ravindra Kalakshetra

To compress the Mahabharata in under 90 minutes is a feat. To do this in a run-down hall where even the vintage fans hardly work, is a bigger feat, especially if one saw the pace, the perfection, the professionalism with which brothers Sharat and Bharat Prabhath put up a spectacle worthy of being on Broadway, that's New York in USA. The show has had many shows and still gets full houses, in every city it goes to. The crowds outside the Ravindra Kalakshetra hall told its popularity. These days to even get an audience is an issue, even with free show culture that's rampant in India. But for '18 Days-Dusk of an Era', it was a sold out show.

(Photo: Simha's Photography)

High tech without a glitch; scenes changing like election results every minute; spiffy sets; extensive costumes and a genuinely appreciative hall full of hooting folks who had paid their way (and not planted fans we see of late who hoot at every minute, as if in a college function) showed the immense impact of this offering by these two very talented brothers of Bangalore. Prabhath brothers and father are sold on Krishna lore. They look like walking mendicants and many swamis had assembled there from Tirupati and Mysore mathhs.

Having seen thousands of productions in last 50 years of dance viewing, I'd put it on par with Uday Shankar's showmanship. Shankar's productions were first rate in finesse and finish and with a huge cast, conveyed a story, effortlessly. Shankarscope done in 1969 was split half on stage and half on screen. It was very unique for India in that period. The concept was perhaps inspired by the popular Czech theatre Magic Lantern, done non-stop for many decades in Prague. I was lucky to see both Shankarscope in 1970s in Delhi and the Magic Lantern in Prague in 1985.

The two brothers have raised the bar with this production. No one in India will be able to get by with anything shoddy. That their talent has long been recognised means at such a young age they have established high reputation. That's more than getting a SNA or Padma award, both of which these brothers deserve. Their work has no parallel.

(Photo: Simha's Photography)

Their art shows influences also from world cultures like Balinese dancing or Native Americans. There was intelligent choreography and magnificent team work. Abhimanyu sequence can be edited a bit. The roles of Kunti, Gandhari and Draupadi looked like fillers. They need more time to develop their characters. Also, while classism was maintained in the whole production, any distinct classical dance form was not stuck with and this is what we call Ballet or dance drama style. Musicals abroad means the actors actually sing. Daily! For months. Because a Broadway production costs millions then the producers have to recover by repeat shows that go for years! Not here. Wish more shows of '18 Days' could be sponsored by corporate houses or the many government agencies. To have over 60 dancers on stage in one 90 minutes production is not easy. Kudos!

Memorable roles of Krishna by Sharat R Prabhath; Arjuna / Abhimanyu by Bharat R Prabhath; Duryodhana by Janardhan Raj Urs; Bheema/Bheeshma by Gopal Krishna; Ghatotkacha by Pavan Kumar; Veda Vyasa/Drona by Nishant; Karna by Rajesh TK and Shakuni by Rupesh with his limp walk and devilish eyes were memorable. Even group warriors and dancers in the end left a mark.

Credits for script, music composition and direction go to Sharat R Prabhath. His words are like honey on stage; royal but reachable. Concept and dance choreography by Bharat R Prabhath and Sharat R Prabhath both showed a grasp that had escaped many others who call themselves choreographers!

(Photo: Shastry Photography)

Even technical and costumes by Bharat R Prabhath showed taste and Úlan. The florescent elephants, green faces in a dark stage, provided the ah! moment. There was a collective sigh in the hall. Another wah moment was the effortless screen that moved sideways and in rode Krishna or Vishnu on Garuda. God, they made it surreal. The whole production '18 Days' shows that it can be done in India.

Produced by Prabhat Arts International, this is truly an international level work and production. Hope ICCR and other official bodies send it abroad to many countries where Hindu mythology is appreciated and where not, this production can help much to. And within India, many youngsters - exposed to junk, violent, obscene films in internet or OTT platforms - should see to understand and appreciate Indian culture and heritage. The Culture and Education ministry must engage this group and production to show ache din aye hain!

Ashish Mohan Khokar
Critic, connoisseur, historian, author, artivist, archivist, administrator and more - editor, columnist and mentor Ashish Khokar remains true to his muse.
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So well written, Ashish ji, as always . Every time it has been staged I've missed it as I've been traveling or had a show on that day. Must catch it the next time around .
- Minal Prabhu (June 24, 2024)

Awesome show, incredible precise moments and performance put up by the Prabhat brothers and their crew. Though could get to see a gist of the show....that itself was mesmerizing and I can imagine what one would experience watching the whole show. Accolades to the whole team of '18 Days.'
- Anuram (June 24, 2024)

Yes, Sir, it was an amazing show. After a long time I have seen such a grand and brilliant production.
- Shalini Garg (June 23, 2024)

My heartiest congratulations to Prabhat Arts International on this wonderful review of '18 Days' ballet staged on 15-06-2024 for house full audience at Ravindra Kalakshetra. (The tickets were sold out before one week). 
As critic Ashish Mohan Khokar says, '18 Days' has to be staged all over the country and abroad successfully. .
I feel so proud of Raghavendra family for taking Prabhat Arts International to its heights.
I pray to Almiighty Sri Krishna to bestow his blessings on all the members of Raghavendra family.
Best of luck, success and happiness in all their endeavors always.
- T. J Vasudeva, DGM, Retd, HAL, Bangalore
(June 23, 2024)

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