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Buddha Chingtham’s Mythical Surrender

Performance Review

Review by

Prateek, Ramjas College, New Delhi, India &Krispa Ningombam, Independent theatre critic

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For many Indians, the achievement of independence on 15 August 1947 marks the end of a long struggle, the moment when, in Jawaharlal Nehru’s words, ‘the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance’ (Brecher 355-6). People looked forward with hope to the creation of a new political order, one in which the problems associated with the British Raj would disappear. Mythical Surrender is an attempt to destroy these sanguine narratives of the people by challenging the imperial metropolitan discourse of the centre, which is at the heart of these narratives.

Semiotic Encryption of Women, Violence and Hysteria in Indian Women Dramaturgy

Praggnaparamita Biswas,  Banaras Hindu University, India

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Abstract

The juxtaposing depiction of women, violence and hysteria as semiotic elements in women-centric play-texts attempts to translate the theatrical meanings because of its demonstrable approach to unearth the textual meanings and its relational politics of representation. From semiological aspect, the interplay of women, violence and hysteria generates a kind of semiotic femaleness in order to prognosticate the feminist route of cultural politics imbedded in the narratives of female composed drama. The present paper intends to analyze the semiotic transformation of Indian women dramaturgy in the plays of Padmanabhan, Mehta and Sengupta. Each of their plays tries to interpret new meanings hidden under the semiotic signs used by these playwrights and also attempt to project the gender politics visualized in the realm of feminist theatre.  

The “Politically Correct Memsahib”: Performing Englishness in Select Anglo-Indian Advice Manuals

S. Vimala, M.G.R. College, Hosur, India

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Abstract

Examining select Anglo-Indian advice manuals written after the Indian Mutiny in 1857and during the ‘high imperialism’ period of the British Raj, the essay proposes that this cultural artefact served the purpose of constructing and naturalizing the English Memsahibs’ gendered racial identity. By reiterating the performance of gender, class and race imperatives to construct a unique identity prerequisite for the Anglo-Indian community as well as the Indian colony, these texts aimed at the crystallization of this identity that will strengthen the idea of the British Raj. Such reiteration- apart from revealing the imperial anxiety of the subversion of the Memsahib identity- were useful to caution the English women new to the colonial environment.  Reading these Anglo-Indian advice manuals produced for the consumption of the Anglo-Indian community, what the essay further proposes is that the performance of gendered-racial identity of the English women in India constituted not only the governance of their bodies and the Anglo-Indian spaces, but also their management of travel and material consumption including food.  Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble and Bodies That Matter provide useful insights to study the performance of the “politically correct Memsahib” identity and its attendant relation to the imagining of the homogenous British Raj.   

Balancing Tradition and Modernity: A reading of Tendulkar’s Ghasiram Kotwal

Shukla Chatterjee (Mandal), Dr. B. C. Roy College of Pharmacy and AHS, Durgapur, India

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Abstract

India, the country of cultural diversity, has a long tradition of dramatic performance with regional specificities. More commonly, it is known as folk tradition/folk theatre It is the folk theatre that gives the essence of the Indianness. During the 1970s, most of the prominent playwrights of India broke the barriers of regional language and produced many good plays at the national level. Most of their experimental works were centered on bringing the performance tradition or elements of folk theatre of India into the popular theatre. Thus we find Girish Karnad’s Hayavadana (1971) using theatrical devices of Yakshagna, a traditional form of theatre, widespread in Karnataka, Utpal Dutt using jatra in Surya Sikar (1972). Badal Sircar, experimented with folk elements of theatre and incorporated them into the proscenium theatre to evolve a new kind of theatre which he called the ‘third theatre’ or ‘street theatre’. Similarly Vijay Tendulkar, like his contemporaries, experimented with various forms of folk theatre in Ghasiram Kotwal (1972). But Ghasiram Kotwal is also a different and more important play in balancing tradition and modern in the history of Indian theatre. For an eminently successful and subtle realization of its importance in the long run, it is necessary to discuss the play critically. This paper is therefore an attempt to read how Tendulkar adopted the different folk forms of theatre and used it to represent on stage a power politics and the effects of oppression, a very contemporary and modern/postcolonial issue.

“Acrobating between Tradition and Modern”: The Roots Movement and Theatre’s Negotiation with Modernity in India

Anuparna Mukherjee, English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad

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Abstract

When playwrights like Girish Karnad joined the stage after the nation’s independence in 1947, the Indian theatre was suffering from acute identity crises being torn between its ancient cultural past and its more recent colonial legacy, which gave birth to hybrid dramatic forms. Several theatre personalities at that time articulated the aspirations of a newly independent nation through their attempts to decolonize the aesthetics of modern Indian theatre by retracing its roots in the repository of India’s classical and folk traditions.  In the light of these developments my paper aims to look at some of the diverse indigenous forms that had been deployed with much success in plays like Karnad’s Hayavadana or Tanvir’s Charandas Chor, thereby significantly contributing to the larger project of decolonization after independence. At the same time the paper also wishes to interrogate whether this ambivalent process of Indianization, sometimes loosely brought under the umbrella of ‘Roots Movement’, is quintessentially ‘anti-modern’, or whether it is actually an attempt to evolve a discourse of an ‘alternate modernity’ by subverting some of the paradigms of its European counterpart which are actually a by-product of both capitalism and imperialism in the West.

Ritualistic World of Tuluva: a study of Tu?uva Women and the Siri Possession Cult

Yogitha Shetty,University of Hyderabad

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Abstract

The paper could roughly be divided into two sections: first provides a brief outline of Bh?t?r?dhane or the ritual-performance traditions of the Tulu-speaking region in the coastal region of Karnataka. Second offers an insight into the mass possession cult of Siri, which like the other rituals of Bh?t?r?dhane derive their referential script from the oral tradition of the land. Connected intricately with the Siri epic or p??dana, Siri rituals are performed annually in many places of the coastal region of Karnataka. During these rituals thousands of ‘afflicted’ women gather and get ‘possessed’ by the pantheon of Siri spirits. This paper is an attempt to delve into the emancipatory potential that this platform could offer women who participate every year, first as novices and then as adepts.

Performance as Protest: Thumri and Tawaif’s Quest for Artistic Autonomy

Shramana Das Purkayasth, Vijaygarh Jyotish Ray College, Kolkata, India

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Abstract

Indian cultural history testifies to the intimate bond the tawaifs had for centuries with the performing arts. Be it the pre-Mughal folk culture of rural India or the highly sophisticated culture of classical music in the Mughal courts, the tawaifs had always remained at the focal point of it. However conservative social paradigm never allowed them to belong to the mainstream Indian society. Concepts of honour, chastity and occupational propriety, with which patriarchy regulates a woman’s individual choices, constrained the tawaif to inhabit a limited space, isolated and solitary, alluring, yet infamous. In the present paper, I propose to explore how thumri reflects the tawaif’s own consciousness of her contradictory status as an outcast as well as an artist, indispensable to India’s musical heritage. Through a detailed structural analysis of the genre, I would discuss how the textual world of thumri with its distinctive formal and performative peculiarities supplies the tawaif with a potentially subversive “action repertoire”, enabling the nautch-girl to voice her desperate demand for autonomy.

Aestheticizing without Agenda: A Counter-Reading of the Western Approach to Chhau Dance

Indranil Acharya, Indranil Acharya, Vidyasagar University, West Bengal, India

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The Argument

In an article titled “A Crisis of Culture” published in The Hindu (May 07, 2006), T. M. Krishna observes:

We are in a modern world, don’t we need to modernise everything? What’s modernisation? Have the arts not always moved with the times? Do we sing or dance the way it was done 200 years ago? Don’t we experiment with all our artistic traditions? Don’t we address contemporary issues through dance? Don’t we package our music differently today? (2)1

 The crux of this paper is to raise similar issues with regard to the popular folk dance form of Eastern India- Chhau. The Chhau of Odisha, West Bengal and Jharkhand has been included in the UNESCO list of Intangible Heritage. The western perception on this essentially folk art form has been quite problematic. There is a constant attempt by the western researchers to categorize Chhau as a classical dance form and the ostensible reason behind it has been the royal involvement in terms of performance and choreography particularly in Seraikella and Mayurbhanj. However, the purely folk origin of the Purulia Chhau of West Bengal is left out of the ambit of discussion. But it has not been taken into consideration that after the independence and the abolition of monarchy in various Indian states, this paradigm of nobility controlling the art form of Chhau has been done away with. Instead, various state governments and their agencies have undertaken a string of democratic measures to preserve and promote this rich indigenous art form. This paper attempts to confront and counter the traditional readings of the western scholars with regard to this folk dance form. The recalcitrant approach to search for a “pure” form as Chhau is incorrectly projected as a classical dance form. There is a sardonic reaction at any deviation from the so-called “purity” of form as sheer exhibitionism with regard to the western audience and a downright rejection of political patronage as an ignoble way of promoting tourism industry. Such misconceived criticisms are taken up for discussion in this paper. With first-hand knowledge of the ground reality and close interaction with the folk artistes, the paper aims to correct the western approach to standardize an essentially fluid and vibrant art form that imbibes the best of western influences and blends it impeccably with the indigenous tradition to produce an organic unity of impression. The paper begins with an outline of this dance form.

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