A contemporary dramatic take on a 4,000-year-old Sanskrit epic that is foundational to Indian culture. 

Why Not Theatre’s large-scale, once-in-a-generation retelling of Mahabharata brings together a cast of performers entirely from the South Asian diaspora, blending cultures and art forms in a spectacular production at the Shaw Festival and the Barbican Theatre in London. Over two parts (Karma and Dharma) and a communal meal (Khana), this translation and adaptation of Mahabharata spans generations and takes audiences into the hearts and minds of some of the most complex and enduring characters ever created. 

With warring families and devious revenge plots, Mahabharata tells the story of an ancient feud with philosophical and spiritual questions that are no less urgent today. In times of division, how do we find wholeness? Are we destined to repeat the mistakes of our ancestors? And how can we build a new world when we have nearly destroyed this one? 

Contains the full text of the play along with materials opening up the behind-the-scenes world of the production, including interviews with the creators, background and context about the source material, production photographs, a Mahabharata family tree, and glossary.

“Ravi Jain and Miriam Fernandes’s contemporary take on the Mahabharata is one of the most beautiful emotional journeys I have had the privilege to witness. It is inspiring, mind broadening, and speaks to all the senses. It even brings you back to the origins of theatre itself, when people would gather in the quarries around a bonfire to tell stories. With their tasteful use of technology, dance, and opera, the 4,000-year-old Sanskrit poem comes to life and feels more universal than ever. A captivating theatre experience, from the first flame to the last pixel.” – Robert Lepage

“In their stunning rendition of the great Indian epic Mahabharata, Ravi Jain and Miriam Fernandes brilliantly reverse the whole concept of what Bertolt Brecht famously advised theatre directors: to make the familiar, unfamiliar. Jain and Fernandes have turned the unfamiliar into the familiar. The 4,000-year-old saga most Indians grew up with is made accessible to a contemporary audience the world over. No mean feat.
‘The play, true to its source, crosses all boundaries of culture, class, and geography. Its timeless storytelling and evocative stage design is transformed into a saga for the world, with its fundamental emotions of human nature – power, hate, jealousy, greed, and lust. To be gob-smacked by this innovation would be an understatement. Immerse yourself in this take on the Mahabharata and travel with it in time into the past, present, and future of humanity.” – Deepa Mehta


Miriam Fernandes

Miriam Fernandes is a Toronto-based artist who has worked as an actor, director, and theatre-maker around the world. Recent directing and creation credits include Hayavadana (Soulpepper Theatre), Nesen, (MiniMidiMaxi Festival, Norway), and The First Time I Saw the Sea (YVA Company, Norway). She is currently developing a Deaf/hearing production of Lady Macbeth (in partnership with 1S1 Collective), and is the co-writer of What You Won’t Do for Love with Drs. David Suzuki and Tara Cullis. Miriam is the recipient of the JBC Watkins Award and was nominated for the inaugural Johanna Metcalf Performing Arts Prize. She is also the co-artistic director of Why Not Theatre and has trained with Anne Bogart’s SITI Company, and is a graduate of École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris. 


Ravi Jain

Toronto-based stage director Ravi Jain is a multi-award-winning artist known for making politically bold and accessible theatrical experiences in both small indie productions and large theatres. He is the founding artistic director of Why Not Theatre.

Ravi was twice shortlisted for the 2016 and 2019 Siminovitch Prize and won the 2012 Pauline McGibbon Award for Emerging Director and the 2016 Canada Council John Hirsch Prize for direction. He is a graduate of the two-year program at École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq. He was selected to be on the roster of clowns for Cirque du Soleil. Sea Sick, which he co-directed, was staged at the National Theatre in London, and What You Won’t Do For Love, which he co-wrote, premiered in 2021.


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208 Pages
8.5in * 5.5in * .48in


September 19, 2023


Coach House Books



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DRAMA / Canadian

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