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November to remember: Challenging Star Darshan’s 50th film, Kurukshetra, was a lesson in mythology

The Challenging Star’s Kurukshetra was a film adaptation of the poem Gaddhayudha, an account of the war between the Pandavas and Kauravas, from Duryodhana’s perspective.

Prathibha Joy
Nov 16, 2021
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Kurukshetra

The 2019 Kannada film Kurukshetra was special on many counts – it was Challenging Star Darshan’s 50th film, had a massive ensemble cast, including names like Rebel Star Ambareesh, Ravichandran V, Arjun Sarja, Nikhil Kumar, Meghana Raj, Hariprriya, etc., and was one of the biggest Kannada projects at the time, which was made in 3D as well. Produced by politician-filmmaker Muniratna, the film - directed by Naganna, who had earlier made Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna with Darshan – was based on the epic poem Gaddhayudha, which finds its roots in the Mahabharatha. The tale centered on Duryodhana, played by Darshan, and focused on the Kurukshetra war, as described in the Mahabharatha, from his viewpoint.

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Darshan as Duryodhana in Kurukshetra

And that was its first stumbling block, because Darshan was not sure if making Duryodhana the hero of the story would work out. In media interactions during the making of the film, Darshan was candid about his struggles to play the character. “When Muniratna approached me with the idea of making a film like this, I was skeptical, because nothing was in place at the time, except for the script. He wanted to know if I would be ok to do it, based on which he would get everything ready. I hesitated a bit, but then said OK. Two months later, Muniratna had all the cast and crew and, most importantly, sets ready for us to get rolling; this itself was quite a feat. The beauty of the cast is that we have artistes from my late father’s generation, mine and the newer crop, which makes it an interesting mix and brings in an appeal for audiences of different age groups,” said Darshan.

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The cast of Kurukshetra

Playing a mythological character, of course, came with its own set of challenges, especially as far as the spoken language goes, which was a mix of old and pure Kannada and Sanskrit. But then, that’s where Darshan shows why he is called the Challenging Star, and took it as a challenge to get that bit just right. “I put in a lot of effort to get the diction right, although I did not get much time to prepare for it. The Kannada portions were easier to manage, but Sanskrit was tough. In fact, in one sequence, I have one-and-a-half page worth lines that build on only two syllables – dha and da. I had to take the help of writer Nagendra Prasad, because more than just being able to say the lines, it is also about knowing where and when to put emphasis on words. I would say that this is a film in which I have spoken words that I had never used in my life,” added Darshan.

As for his body language and mannerisms as royalty, the actor said that he took inspiration from mythological TV shows. “I took pointers from there and created a sketch of Duryodhana in my mind, about how I would want to play him,” he said, adding that the 3D version was a treat for new-gen kids, who are not exposed to mythological tales.


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