The Mahabharata (1989 film)

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This article is about Peter Brook's 1989 film. For the Indian epic, see Mahabharata.
The Mahabharata
DVD cover
Directed by Peter Brook
Written by Peter Brook
Jean-Claude Carrière
Marie-Hélène Estienne
Starring Robert Langton-Lloyd
Antonin Stahly-Vishwanadan 
Bruce Myers
Vittorio Mezzogiorno
Andrzej Seweryn
Georges Corraface
Music by Toshi Tsuchitori
Rabindranath Tagore
Cinematography William Lubtchansky
Release date
Running time
318 / 171 min.
Country Belgium / Australia / U.S.A. / Sweden / Portugal / Norway / Netherlands / Japan / Ireland / Iceland / Finland / Denmark / U.K. / France
Language English
Budget $5 million

The Mahabharata is a 1989 film version of the Hindu epic, Mahabharata directed by Peter Brook. Brook's original 1985 stage play was 9 hours long, and toured around the world for four years. In 1989, it was reduced to under 6 hours for television (TV mini series). Later it was also reduced to about 3 hours for theatrical and DVD release. The screenplay was the result of eight years' work by Peter Brook, Jean-Claude Carrière and Marie-Hélène Estienne.


Main article: Mahabharata

In general terms, the story involves epic incidents between two warring families, the Pandavas (representing the good side) and the Kauravas (representing the bad side). Both sides, being the offspring of kings and gods, fight for dominion. They have both been advised by the god Krishna to live in harmony and abstain from the bloody lust for power. Yet their fights come to threaten the very order of the Universe. The plot is framed by a dialogue between the Brahmin sage Vyasa and the Hindu deity Ganesha, and directed towards an unnamed Indian boy who comes to him inquiring about the story of the human race.



The production's use of an international cast caused heated intercultural debate. Negative criticism came from Indian scholar Pradip Bhattacharya who felt that Brook's interpretation "was not a portrayal of a titanic clash between the forces of good and evil, which is the stuff of the epic... [but] the story of the warring progeny of some rustic landlord".


In 1990, the film won the award for Performing Arts of the International Emmy Awards and the Audience Award for Best Feature at the São Paulo International Film Festival.

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