|Agnivarsha: 'The Fire & the Rain'|
Stills from the Film
Watching Agnivarsha or 'The Fire and the Rain' is like reliving the age-old myth even as its multi-faceted characters, which transcend time, play out its inexorable end. Directed by Arjun Sajnani, the film is adapted from a drama by the noted Indian playwright Girish Karnad. Derived from 'The Myth of Yavakri' a part of the renowned epic The Mahabharata, this film retains the essence of the original story that recounts the tale of two brothers while exploring the themes of power, love, lust, sacrifice, faith, duty, selfishness and jealousy.
Agnivarsha was shot entirely on location at Hampi, the seat of the Vijaynagar Empire in the 13th century, which is now a World Heritage Site, under the stewardship of the Archaeological Survey of India. The period has been accurately recreated in the film without losing its contemporary insights that are so intrinsic to the original script.
Paravasu is the eldest son of the great sage Raibhya. For seven long years he has performed the mahayagya (fire sacrifice) to appease the gods and get rains for the drought-ridden land. He has forsaken his wife Vishakha, his brother Arvasu and all worldly pursuits. His exalted position of Chief Priest of the sacrifice creates discord and animosity within his own family, from his father Raibhya to his cousin Yavakri.
Yavakri, Paravasu's arch-rival, returns home triumphant after ten years of meditation, armed with the boon of eternal knowledge bestowed upon him by the Lord Indra himself. The resentful Yavakri embarks upon a scheme for ultimate revenge at any cost.
Paravasu's younger brother Arvasu, is in love with a tribal girl Nittilai, is all set to defy his upper caste Brahmin norms and marry her. But his Brahmin upbringing does not allow him to escape the manipulations of his brother Paravasu, his cousin Yavakri, and his father Raibhya. Unwittingly embroiled in their battle for supremacy, he is eventually forced to choose between love and duty.
In a desperate attempt to assert his position, his dominance in the Brahmin community, Yavakri seduces Vishakha his past lover and now Paravasu's abandoned wife. Raibhya Paravasu's father, wreaks his own vengeance on Yavakri by unleashing upon him a demon the Brahmarakshas.
The appearance of Lord Indra at the end is testament to Arvasu's essential goodness and faith. His dialogue with the God leads him towards the path of duty and spiritual growth, through sacrifice. The purity of his love for Nittilai triumphs as the parched land is granted rain and its people salvation.
Agnivarsha is the first of a series of art films being released in North America by the Los Angeles-based company Cinebella with the theme "Beyond Bollywood," in order to popularize Indian art films in North America. The film opened in August 2002 at Loews State Theatre in Broadway, Manhattan.
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