Indian English Drama: Themes and Techniques by Dr. Dipak Giri

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Indian English Drama: Themes and Techniques (2018) is the first book edited by Dr. Dipak Giri.  In this book, there are twenty seven articles written by twenty seven Indian writers. One among the twenty seven articles has been written by Dr. Dipak Giri himself. Other twenty six articles have been written by different twenty six Indian writers born with great literary merits and such writers are from all over India. This book has been brought out by Vishwabharati Research Centre, situated at Latur, in Maharashtra, India.  In the introduction of this book, Dr. Giri has given his comprehensive and detailed ideas about the origin and development of Indian English Drama. He has also discussed how Indian English drama has taken its present shape due to the influence of English on the Indian writers during British rule in India. Now Indian Drama in English has attained a very significant shape to the surprise of every reader. The greatness of this book lies in its inclusion of all the great works of the eminent dramatists of Indian origin. They are Rabindranath Tagore, Girish Karnad, Vijay Tendulkar, Mahesh Dattani, Badal Sirkar, Habib Tanvir, Utpal Dutt, Mahasweta Devi, Usha Ganguli, Manjula Padmanabhan, Mahesh Elkunchwar and Manoj Mitra.

Tirthankar Sengupta in the first chapter of this book has analyzed the drama titled Michhil, and it has been one of the most noted Third Theatre plays by Badal Sircar. He has also borrowed certain technical notions from the work of the reputed Performance theorist Richard Schechner and applied the same to his writing in order to make the readers understand the technical implications of Sircar’s alterations of the conventions of Proscenium theatre. Such a technical notion also includes a contrast between the ordered performances in the established arenas and the carnivalesque impromptu performances on the street. He has related these two with the conventionally ordered proscenium stage and Sircar’s experimental Muktamancha and Anganmancha respectively. He has looked upon the set structure of the play. At the same time, he sees how it affects the experience of people watching the play, especially with regards to the themes it brings up. He has highlighted several technical aspects of the play and discussed how they have created the most impressive impact on their minds. He has also investigated Sircar’s ‘take on the concept of Processions’ how he depicts them, captures their spirit, yet critiques them and ultimately points towards an idealistic quest for a “true” procession. In addition, he has analyzed how this parallels the corrective capacity of theatre in bringing vitality to soul-less rituals.

B. Thulasi Das in the second chapter attempts to analyze Girish Karnad’s play Hayavadana on the basis of the Foucauldian genealogical method and then he traces back the problem as a historic problematic of the socio-political system of India from Vedic antiquity to the present. Rafseena M in his third chapter makes a re-reading of Manjula Padmanabhan’s The Harvest on the basis of the theoretical proposition of the uncanny by Sigmund Freud, and thereby he takes this study out of the clichetic futuristic rendering. Then Sreetanwi Chakraborty in her study on major plays of Usha Ganguly and Mahesh Elkunchwar presents how they dexterously create their plays and thereby both evoke pleasure as well as pain among the audience, and thereby they challenge and subvert the stereotypical notions of Indian stage drama with the use of stage lights, props, characters, and dialogues. Next Dr. Seema Sarkar’s study on Vijay Tendulkar’s Silence! The Court is in Session deals with the defaming of the female whose single life is questioned

Shruti Roy Chakraborti in her study on Vijay Tendulkar’s children plays such as Missing: A Father, Bobby’s Story, The Play of the Nosey Parker, The King and Queen Want Sweat and The Village Headman’s Daughter’s Wedding explores how Tendulkar, though popularly known for his mature plays, which have long been immensely impactful, is no less popular for his children plays which are written with an aim to entertain the children. Chakraborti studies how Tendulkar keeps the stage direction simple so that the children find it easy to enact those actions themselves but at the same time he creates ample scope in each play for the adults to ponder over various problematic questions, which are difficult for them to ignore.

In the seventh chapter, Dr. Shachi Sood in her study on Mahesh Dattani’s play Ek Alag Mausam attempts to highlight Dattani’s concern for female body and brings to the light how Dattani’s revelation of the exploration for an enlightened self other than the one imposed upon women by the society and culture initiates when women start defying the societal stereotypes. Dr. Irum Alvi in the eighth chapter focuses on the human dilemma as it analyses reality and illusions in the plays of Girish Karnad, especially in Naga Mandala since identifying the boundaries regarding applicability is essential. It also scrutinizes his use of myths.

Dr. Prachi Priyanka studies gender dynamics in select plays of Mahesh Dattani. Next chapter is the tenth chapter of this book. Gunjan Gupta in this tenth chapter aims at exploring the idea that the various myths, legends and folktales that have been existing in India since time immemorial are very significant in contemporary times as well. Tughlaq and Ghashiram, the two protagonists in Girish Karnad’s Tughlaq and Vijay Tendulkar’s Ghashiram Kotwal are centuries apart but their alienation, frustration and deteriorating mental health depict recurrent human condition due to which both of them become victims to their own intrigues and schemes. Mental decadence of the characters is reflected in the depiction of a socially decadent time. The characters have a strong potential to directly communicate with the modern audiences and take them through similar experiences. The visions and the subsequent failures of these characters are understood through the study of sex, violence, degrading family system, gender, religion etc. The attempt is to tie all the themes and showcase that at the heart of the two tragic figures is their unquenchable thirst for power and shattering of their idyllic world.

In the following chapter, Ragini  Kapoor in her study on Rabindranath  Tagore’s  plays aims to  present  Tagore’s  plays  in  an  impartial  and  impassioned  true  light  with  the  main  focus  on  the  symbolical  presentation  of  themes  in  strikingly  appealing  and  apt  imagery.  She studies how Tagore  has introduced  new  prose  and  verse  forms  and  the  use  of  colloquial  language  into  Bengali  literature. In doing so, he frees  it  from  traditional  models  based  on  classical  Sanskrit and also how he has  introduced  the  best  of  Indian  culture  to  the  west  and  vice-versa,  and  why he  is  generally  regarded  as  the  outstanding  creative  artist  of  modern  India.

Tanveer Qureshi and Ashraf Karim in the next chapter probethe element of greed and the role of Divine Dispensation in Manoj Mitra’s Banchharam’s Orchard (Originally Sajano Bagan in Bengali).The chapter explores howthe play underpins absolute greed and sheer materialism of a particular section of the ruling class who despises to witness poor prospering. Moreover, their blind love and desire for acquiring wealth leaves them morally paralyzed and bereft of any compassion for poor and needy. But ultimately, this paper attempts to show the ways in which divine dispensation exercises absolute control over the plots and designs of the mortals.

Next two chapters written by Dr. Archi Madhani-Patel, one on Mahesh Dattani and another on Vijay Tendulkar, explore on Dattani’s dramatic techniques as employed in his plays and Tendulkar’s idea of violence as reflected in his play Vultures respectively. Next Armeen Kaur Ahuja attempts to trace the rise of leftist theatre in colonial India, its visionary emancipatory attempts to consolidate the nation through birth of IPWA and IPTA in retrospect through Habib Tanvir. Change in governance and rise of Indian bourgeoisie during initial years of independent India and the resultant middle-class theatre along with final burial of people’s theatre in modern India is traced through examining changing taste of audience and performing techniques. Tanvir’s career becomes reflective and dialogic to its present and is treated as a tool to study leftist theatre in retrospective.

Dr. Mangesh Madhukar Gore in the sixteenth chapter presents the victimization of woman through innovative symbols and techniques as employed by the playwright Vijay Tendulkar in his play Silence! The Court is in Session  Dr. Gore brings to surface how Tendulkar has very deftly employed symbols, songs and soliloquy to present victimization of woman and hypocrisy of middle class society. Dr. Gore also sheds light how Tendulkar has skillfully used technique of metafication with some other experimental techniques to heighten the effect of the play.

Shubhra Ghoshal in the seventeenth chapter narrates the journey of Jatra, the travelling theatre form of West Bengal, India. Here Ghosal attempts to study in detail the contemporary social theatre, with particular emphasis on a few stalwarts of Jatra, as Phoni Bhushan, Brojen Dey and Shailesh Guhoniyogi, who have imprinted their marks on Jatra’s transformation as a potent medium to effectuate social and communal harmony. The chapter also focuses on studying the aesthetics and pragmatics of this resilient theatrical form with its power to foster social solidarity.

Next Dr. T. Sasikanth Reddy presents the clash of divergencesin Mahesh Dattani’s Bravely Fought the Queen. The chapter examines the marital and familial conflicts in the play in terms of the communication styles adopted by the different characters. It looks particularly at the manner in which characters hide and disclose information as the key method of exerting and maintaining power over others. ‘Words, the weapon to crucify’ said the Indo-English poet Eunice de Souza in a poem, and indeed, Dattani’s characters use words to attack, control, humiliate and expose. Used more to conceal than to reveal, to hurt than to heal, they become mere pawns in the games people play, games in which language is used to dominate as well as to resist. Since the interpersonal conflicts in the play are deeply rooted in issues of gender, the chapter makes use of insights derived from the interface between language and gender in tandem with communication theory to understand the flawed relationships between the characters. The chapter examines the manner in which the communication styles of the main characters reveal hidden agendas and lay bare the masks they try desperately to hide behind.

In the nineteenth chapter of this book, Milda Mary Savio explores Badal Sircar’s Evam Indrajit through the lens of Sartrean Existentialism.The twentieth chapter of this book written by Dr. Brajesh Kumar Gupta “Mewadev” is an exploration of Utpal Dutt and his contribution to the theatre. Next chapter written by Supriya Mandal intends to show the transformation of the protagonist from a helpless victim towards an empowerment and agency in Usha Ganguli’s play Rudali. Ganguli’s play Rudali, a dramatic adaptation of Mahasweta Devi’s novella of same name, emphasises on gender issues, female unity and empowerment, however, contrary to Mahasweta Devi who has laid an emphasis on class issues and community bonding in her novella. Mandal explores how Ganguli’s Rudali, basically a woman’s story and a tale of transmission of a dotting; helpless and victimised woman into an enlightened and empowered woman is different from its original source Mahasweta Devi’s novella of same name. Next chapter written by Sujoy Barman presents multiple aspects of gender discrimination in the select plays of Mahesh Dattani.  Then comes Subhrajyoti Roy’s chapter on Dattani’s Tara which also deals with gender discrimination. Anupam Das in the next chapter focuses on the existence and distance of self in Badal Sircar’s plays. Next follows Saurabh Debnath’s chapter on gender issues in Girish Karnad’s Naga Mandala. Twenty sixth chapter of this book is written by Amrita Datta on violation of human rights and values in Mahasweta Devi’s Aajir and Water. The final chapter written by Dipak Giri is an exploration of changing power structure in terms of sex, religion and politics as seen in Vijay Tendulkar’s Ghashiram Kotwal.

This anthology containing different articles with different themes and titles on different Indian dramas, written by different authors is really a goldmine to research scholars. Every library should have copies of this anthology. I greatly appreciate editor Dr. Giri for bringing out this anthology on dramas because it will “give many ground breaking concepts and ideas on Indian English drama and is useful for both researchers and learners”.


D. Amalraj is a retired Professor of English. He has put in nearly 45 years of teaching and research experience. He has published so many Study Aid-series on Shakespearean works such as Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice, Julius Caser and The Tempest. He has authored two books. One is Literary Terms and it is a personal publication. The other is Research Methodology for Literary Research as a reference text for research scholars. It has been prescribed as a reference text for MA English both in Periyar University and PSG College of Arts and Science, Coimbatore.  He started his teaching career in June 1969 at Kandasamy Naidu College for Men at Madras, Tamil Nadu, India. Since June 1970 till he has retired as a Selection Grade lecturer in 2004, he has worked at Kandasamy Kandar College, Paramathy Velur, Namakkal District in Tamil Nadu. Soon after his retirement, from June 15, 2004, he has worked as the head and Research Supervisor for M. Phil regular Students of Periyar University, Salem till he got relieved in December 2011. He has also worked as a Part time Professor at Coimbatore Bishop Appasamy College from June 2011 to March 2012.