By Jyothi Venkatesh
They say faith takes you to a new level of consciousness. There is so much mysticism surrounding Lord Jagannath, that a devotee becomes one with the Mahabaahu, if he dedicates him/herself to His services. Dhananjay Kapoor, internationally awarded filmmaker, writer and actor, is one of millions of devotees who have experienced the Jagannath magic, nearly seven years back.
How did this connection happen? It was in 2013 when the filmmaker experienced a rare health issue of his heartbeat being nearly double that of the normal rate, he recalled. He could not even walk two steps without getting exhausted. “I saw a doctor who said only miracles can save me. Then my Guru told me to read Bhagwad Geeta, do ‘shastaang’ and give up on all vices, including non-veg food. After religiously following the advice, I was able to recover and lead a normal life. Though my heart still races at 100, I manage to walk 10 km,” he says.
The filmmaker’s connection with the Lord of the Universe is so deep and intense that he has embarked on a mission to stage a play on Bhagwaan Jagannath across the globe.“The spiritual play on Lord Jagannath (currently in Hindi) depicts the story of how Bhagwaan Jagannath came to earth, in this very special form, along with His brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra,” says Kapoor, explaining his play. “It is a very dramatic play that also reveals the philosophy of Sanatan Dharma and explains the beautiful nuggets of our spiritual culture which is very important especially for our youth and children to understand and appreciate,” he adds.
When we asked Kapoor how he managed to prepare this huge theatrical venture in the midst of lockdown restrictions, he said, “the actors of his theatre group “Bhandira Tree “ had been rehearsing in the auditorium of the ISKCON temple, Juhu, Mumbai, since Jan’21 however the group was not ready with the play when the lockdown happened in April and we needed around 3 more months ofrehearsals…the lockdown was demotivating for the artistes… it seemed that all the hard work would go in vain”. At that time Mr. Kapoor came with a brilliant idea of using technology to their rescue – while the entire world was using Zoom for meetings, they rehearsed the play on “Bhagwaan Jagannath ” on ZOOM !
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Kapoor adds that it takes a lot more effort to act while sitting on a chair but all the actors of the ‘Bhagwaan Jagannath’ play would join6 days in a week on video calls for rehearsals to prepare the play without any reservations for an average 4 hours every day and now after a total of 143 days, he and his fellow actors are completely ready with this mega theatrical presentation. Mr. Dhananjay Kapoor proudly shared that the audience and the spectators will get to see and hear a theatrical presentation of high standard since the artistes of this play & theatre group are of refined pedigree and are associated with acting in Bollywood for an average of 12-15 years and are primarily from Hindi speaking areas like Varanasi, Meerut, Jaunpur, Patna, Jabalpur and Raipur. Some artists are also from West Bengal, Orissa and Punjab.
Dhananjay Kapoor further shared that he wishes to present the first show of the play on the day of Lord Jagannath’s Rath Yatra i.e. 12th July’21 however looking at the lockdown restrictions due to COVID-19 it does not seem possible. At the same time, it is Mr. Kapoor’s deepest desire that the divine story and message of Lord Jagannath should reach his ardent devotees without fail. While he was contemplating this thought an innovative idea struck him. He thought of converting this theatrical creation also into a radio drama so that it could be broadcasted with the medium of a radio channel to Lord Jagannath’s fervent devotees on 12th July, 2021.
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Currently Dhananjay Kapoor and the artistes of “The Bhandira Tree “are searching for few radio stations which can help them share the divine message and story of Lord Jagannath with his devotees. Kapoor, who himself plays the role of King Indradyumna, said: “The team has been working relentlessly, but financial constraints have posed a problem and I have not been able to pay them a penny till now. Now, I am looking for devotees who can help with the production of this play by lending financial help.”
Dhananjay Kapoor adds that due to the pandemic it is difficult to get sponsors to produce the play. Hence, he is trying to arrange funds for the radio play through donations and crowd funding. Kapoor believes that probably the Almighty wants that the play gets contribution from as many people as possible and not just one big company.The aid could be in the form of sponsorship of staging their play and the group will travel to that place to perform. “The donation/seva can help to get things ready like costume, music, set and some necessary props and also pay the actors who up till now have been working very hard on this 4-hour play without any stipend,” he added.“We have started a crowdfunding initiative through Milaap and hope Lord Jagannath works his magic,” Kapoor says.
Anup Jalota, the world renowned doyen of Bhajans, has shown his devotion towards Lord Jagannath’ and has contributed to the play by rendering his mellifluous voice to the “Aarti Song”that comes in the 2nd Act of the play. Kapoor said that Jalota on hearing about the play and its objective, readily agreed to sing the ‘arti’ without any fees and by doing this he has truly shown deep respect to Lord Jagannath !Also, the devotees across the globe can contribute towards the play “The Bhagwan Jagannath Natak” by selecting the Milaap.orglink given on the plays’ Facebook and Instagram pages.
Talking about the uniqueness of the play he says, “At the end of the play we would perform an‘abhishek’of Lord Jagannath while reciting the ‘Jagannath Ashtakam’ and even people from audience will be invited to come on stage to perform the ‘abhishek’ on Lord Jagannath’s ‘chaturdah archavigrah’.This will give them an opportunity to worship the deity.”
Stating that his life is a blessing of Lord Jagannath, Kapoor goes on to say: “If I am alive today it is because of His blessings (kripa). The puja mandir at home has two Laddoo Gopal idols (usually every home has one Laddoo Gopal) and also an idol of Goddess Durga and other demi-gods. One fine day, I felt that the Almighty spoke to me saying, “Did you notice your mandir, I have come to your house in my avtaar of Lord Jagannath with My siblings?!” On that day I saw for the first time how the 2 Laddoo Gopal with Goddess Durga’s idol (who is none other than sister Subhadra,) in the middle actually formed the composition of ‘chaturdah archavigrah’ of Lord Jagannath !!!… This was such a re-enforcement of my belief in Lord Jagannath, Kapoor signs off with teary eyes !