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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

THREE PLAYS—A Ranting Ruler assailed by the Middle Class Indicted in a Court of Law

Been some time since I read any half-decent play , except within a book—as in the Trials of Arabella, in Atonement—coming to which I shamelessly missed an interview with McEwan on the radio, vacillating between watching the Greatest Show On Earth ( no, not Barnum’s circus ) and the vacuous Budget before settling on a Henry interview.

Three Plays is a smorgasbord, I am certain that there will be better ones lurking on musty corners and languishing silently beyond our vision but for sheer putative acclaim, Tughlaq, Evam Indrajit and Silence! The Court is in Progress , would be tough to trample over.

Tughlaq has a long and insightful prologue written by the venerable U R Ananthamurthy ( again , I must submit my ignorance at what he has actually written elsewhere ) which examines life in the times of the great Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq in engrossing detail. UR A provides us good reading background into the thematic context of the play, its historical “situations” , use of emotive display, narrative devices—like the two Macbeth-like characters titled Aziz and Azaam who flit in and out changing the pace of the play, and stringing the willing audience around. The Parsi technique of using the foreground of the stage for “shallow” scenes and the entirety for “deep” scenes was also , sadly, lost on me as I am a mere reader.

A most interesting play on one of the most complex of Indian emperors—who is increasingly tetchy and intolerant as time goes on, superbly well-informed and erudite, as enlivened to his surroundings as distanced from his people.

Can be studied in many hues—at one level, an exasperatingly intelligent king thwarted time and again by Fate and Followers, one far ahead of his time frustrating his subjects with new-fangled tenets of secularism and amity, abiding respect for Knowledge, Fearlessness and Integrity.

At another, a conniving genius masking capacious lust for individual immortality by timely allusions to the lonely peaks of high idealism and hence miring himself in the quicksand of Court politics. His infernal narcissism playing havoc on the morale and contentment of his troops.

Richly layered and a page turner—even though the “success” of the protagonist long a figment of the reader’s imagination.

Evam Indrajit in Bengali by Badal Sircar is in a much more reasonable setting, although the leitmotif is the inherent contradiction that is the Indian Middle Class, which as we all know, is itself only a fleeting thought in somebody’s mind.

The protagonist begins by questioning in painstaking rigour, all the multifarious norms and mores helf by this faceless body and ends in desolation and despair.

Compromise is an escape.
The rest is Silence.

Had read the last a decade ago, and Vijay Tendulkar is an excoriating playwright, doubtless.

Only quibbles were my own frailty—to play the right kind of music during my read—NFAK instead of Muzaffar Ali, and my abject inability to read in any language other than English or Hindi. Sad !


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