5 Plays That Will Leave You With Yearning For More

5 Plays That Will Leave You With Yearning For More

Drama has always been a predominant factor in India. This rich, glorious tradition has been preserved in Natyashastra where oral narratives being enacted were more in vogue.  The beginnings of Loknatya or People theatre has been a major part of culture in different states of India from the 17th century onwards. In Bengal Yatrakirtaniya, Paol and Gaan in Madhya Pradesh, Mach in Kashmir, Bhandyathar in Gujarat, Bhavai and Ramleela in Northern India, Nautanki, Bhand, Ramleela, Rasleela in Maharashtra, Tamasha in Rajasthan, Raas and Jhoomer in Punjab etc.

The rise of modern drama dates back to the 18th century when the British empire consolidated stable power in India. Later in 1831, Prasanna Kumar Thakur founded the Hindu Rangmanch in Kolkata. We find the social drama of Girish Chandra Ghosh, the historical dramas of D. L. Roy and the artistic dramas of Rabindranath Tagore like Muktadhara, Chandalika,  Red Oleander, Chitra, Natir Puja    dominating the theatrical scene.

Here we list 5 Indian plays you must watch whenever you can manage to do so. Each one of them will be worth your time:

Red Oleander by Rabindranath Tagore

A drama in one act. Written in 1923-24 this was the last of Tagore’s symbolic plays and in some ways, perhaps the best. Here he expostulates the expression of truth “to which we are so accustomed that we have forgotten all about it” This play is about evil and good. Of avarice and humanity.  The spirit of the epics is recreated. Tagore says, “it is a vision that has come to me in the darkest hour of destiny.” The sight of a twig of blood red oleander being crushed under a heavy iron gave birth to the idea behind this play. This once again reminds us of an ongoing concern in literature from Blake to Eliot and even after. Rapid industrialisation giving way to a severe ecological imbalance. The theme and structure of the play interwoven with songs is unique. Red Oleander is a mobilising instrument being used to attack post colonial society which has turned into a mechanical by-product of the modern materialistic system.  It still holds relevance today and is appreciated by people for its meaningful social context.

Ebong Indrajit by Badal Sircar

The name of Badal Sircar needs no introduction. Known widely across India this influential dramatist and theatre director was the trendsetter of anti-establishment plays. During the Naxalite movement in the 1970s he paved the way for a new movement,taking theatre out of the proscenium into public arena. His plays were unique in style and subject, foremost being Ebong Indrajit (Bengali), Basi Khabar, Saari Raat amongst others.  He was a pioneer in street theatre as well as the experimental third theatre. While employed in Nigeria he wrote Ebong Indrajit in 1963 which was published and performed in 1965. It spoke about the stories of four urban youths of the 60s – Amal, Vimal, Kamal and [or ebong] Indrajit. The play is existential in spirit and the dilemmas especially Inderjit’s will remain forever making the play relevant for all times. It captures the loneliness of post-independence urban youth with dismaying accuracy.

Yayati by Girish Karnad

Girish Karnad the great theatre and film personality is also known as a playwright. He wrote in Kannada which had been highly influenced by the Renaissance in Western literature where writers would often take up subjects which seemed entirely alien to the native sensibilities. C. Rajagopalachari’s version of The Mahabharata published in 1951 left a considerable impact on young Karnad. Yayati was published in 1961 when he was only twenty three. It is based on the story of King Yayati one of the ancestors of the Pandavas. He was cursed to prematurely embrace old age by his guru Shukracharya angry with Yayati’s infidelity. Yayati in turn orders his sons to sacrifice their youth for him and one of them agreed.  Karnad ridicules these ironies of life through his mythical characters from the Mahabharata. Yayati is remarkable for the unusual treatment of a well known mythical epic.

Shantata! Court Chalu Aahe (Silence! The Court is in Session) by Vijay Tendulkar

Silence! The Court is in Session written  by the leading playwright, movie and television writer, literary essayist , political journalist and social commentator Vijay Tendulkar created a furore in Marathi theatre circles and was later translated and enacted in many Indian languages and English. The play is  an inbuilt irony on the system of justice prevalent in our country. The action involves the mock trial of a simple and straight forward school teacher Miss Benare. The witnesses and council for defence or the judge are all presented with a vein of mockery where the characters seem to fight for authority and power and the metaphorical mock trial dissects a woman’s private life. A trial between humanists and the anti- humanists. This powerful play openly questions our social system and judiciary.

Adrak ke Panje by Babban Khan

A comedy not only evokes laughter it also questions society in a subtle way. Adrak ke Panje has been running successfully from decades and is still popular all over the world.  A one man show, Babban Khan’s play  centres round a poor clerk with eight children  and an unmanageable number of guests who keep dropping by into his crowded home. The title literally means ginger roots or an unplanned family. There are no lavish sets, no music or special effects – this pure, unadulterated comedy  humorously  passes on a social message too many kids spoil the broth.

Enjoy some of the legendary plays from India this World Theatre Day. After all theatre is all about another form of story telling.

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