Monday, 7 November 2011

“The Fire and The Rain” : Blending of Western and Indian Concepts of Theatre.

India got political freedom in 1947. But it took some more years for the Indian theatre to gain freedom from the Western Influence. The so called modern theatre in India was set up during the time of the British Rule. It had a purpose of its own. In anyway, it cannot be rightly called as “Indian” in its purpose and dramaturgy. Indian artists had to begin a new style of drama which is Indian from the beginning. Efforts in this direction started a few years after getting political freedom.
                                  Erin B. Mee comments that :
What later became modern theatre in India began in the colonial cities set up by the British as commercial ports: Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay. These cities had an urban middle-class audience with values and tastes shaped by the English-style education they received, and by the need to work with the British in administration and commerce. Much of the theatre in this era copied the British drama that toured the country, and therefore took on to some extent the
aesthetics, dramaturgical structures, and even the architecture of Western drama.Until the development of modern theatre in India, most performance did not takeplace on a proscenium stage, nor did it depend upon ticket sales, but upon patronage. The proscenium which was adopted for much of the modern theatreseparated the participants from the observers; ticket sales put an emphasis on theatreas a commodity, making it available to a smaller, and wealthier, group of people.”
                                            India had a dramatic tradition of its own. But that tradition was lost over the centuries. And in the modern age, we started a kind of dramatic culture which was more of a western one in nature. So after the independence people began to think of a theatre which adheres more to the Indian concepts of drama.  The British originated theatre was mainly urban. And our traditional art forms were the art of the villages. So the rural and urban  streams of art flew in different streams. Somehow it had to be put together.
                     This issue reminds us of the situation in, perhaps the best Indian drama witten ever - ‘Abhijnana Sakunthalam’ where we can see a contrast between the village and the city. And it ends in the triumph of the village over the city. The values of the village (ie.the Asram of Kanva) is pictured as far more superior than the culture of the city. The result of the contrast between the two traditions of performance in the modern context of drama was also the same. The dramatists of post colonial India tried to combine the two streams of performances. The result of which was predominantly a traditional one even though it had all the elements of a modern theatre.
                                    The eminent Malayalam playwright Kavalam Narayana Panickar along with some other playwrights like Habib Tanvir, Vijay Tendulkar, and Girish Karnad tried to invent a kind of new dramatic culture which is essentially ‘Indian’. The theatre evolved from their efforts came to be known as ‘Theatre of Roots.’  Dramatists like Kavalam and Karnad studied studied traditional Indian performance forms like ‘Kathakali’, ‘Yakshaganam’, ‘Chau’, etc. And they incorporated the elements of all these forms in their drama.
                               Vijay Tendulkar’s ‘Sari Ga Sari’ is a good example for the blending of the elements of Indian tradition with western theatrical elements. Karnad’s ‘Hayavadane’ employs traditional elements like ‘Yakshagana’, half curtain, Bhagavatha (narrator), etc. when it in all sense remind us of some of the modern dramas. Badal Sircar came up with another radical change which came to be known as  the ‘Third Theatre’ which was a synthesis of the rural and urban. However the master of blending the traditional performance ideas with the western concepts was none other than Girish Karnad.
                            So when one form of media is represented within another form of media, it is known as remediation. So from this point of view, Karnad’s pays should be studied within the context of ‘Remediation’. In ‘The Fire and The Rain’ Karnad reworks a myth which was included in the Forest Kanto of ‘Mahabharatha’. The myth is represented in a drama. And it is worth studying how the theater refashions the myth.
                                 Also the drama has a structure called the play within the lay. The playwright puts so many mediums together like, myth, drama, drama within the drama, song, dance, etc. also the stage is divided into two equal parts. The shift from one place to another happens when one part is darkened and the other is brightened. It is like two windows in a computer. At one time the spectator sees one part of the stage and then he will be watching the other part. The only difference is that he is not free to choose the part he wants. All these reminds us of the phenomenon which is called ‘hypermediacy’ in modern media studies.
                                   Another feature of this play is that its episodic structure. The play has a prologue and epilogue. So many incidents are sandwiched in three acts in between the Prologue and the Epilogue. One dialogue of Yavakri can be used to describe the structure of the play. And the dialogue is :
“The past isn’t gone. It’s here inside me.”
It seems that every character is saying the same dialogue throughout the play. The incidents are narrated more than they are happened. A good part of the story is uncoiled through the lips of the characters and not through the actions of the characters. For example, in the first scene, Arvasu, Nittilai and later Andhaka come to the stage. And the story is told to us by Nittilai and Andhaka. Arvasu seems to be a passive listener. Nittilai and Andhaka tells some past events and offer their comments on it. This is continued through out  the play. What is the effect produced by this structure. These are some of the subjects that I would like to study in this paper.
1)      Dharwadker Aparna “Historical Fictions and Postcolonial Representation: Reading Girish Karnad's Tughlaq”. PMLA. Modern Language Association. Vol.110, No.1, Special Topic : Colonialism and Post Colonial Condition. 1995. 27/10/2011.
2)      Russel, Martin. Asian Theatre Journal. University of Hawai’ i Press. Vol. 19, No.2. 2002
3)      Hansen, Kathryn. “Indian Folk Traditions and the Modern Theatre”. Asian Folklore Studies.  Nanzan University. Vol 42, No. 1. (1983). 27/10/2011.

4)      B, Erin Mee. “Contempporary Indian Theatre : Three Voices”. Performing Arts Journal.  Performing Arts Journal,Inc. Vol. 19, No. 1. 1997. 27/10/2011.

1 comment:

  1. Sandeep:

    Good beginning to the paper. I also like the sources you have used. Two minor clarifications:

    1. What is the title of the essay by Russell Martin that you will be using in the paper?

    2. Try and quote only those sections of the sources which contribute to your argument. In other words, avoid excessively long quotes.

    3. While it is clear which traditions used by the playwright are Indian, which traditions/elements of the play are you positing as Western? You discuss the "play within the play" but I'm not sure whether you present this as a Western or Indian theatrical characteristic. Shakespeare uses this device most effectively but have you come across similar features in other Indian plays? If so, can we say whether it is an Indian or Western theatrical feature? Keep some of these ideas in mind as you write your paper.