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Drama Centre Stage


Bhaskar Ghose

WOMEN CENTRE STAGE: THE DRAMATIST AND THE PLAY
Edited by Poile Sengupta
Routledge, New Delhi, 2010, pp. 347, Rs. 450.00

VOLUME XXXIV NUMBER 6 June 2010

This is an important book. Important for two reasons: one, it is actually a book of plays, something few publishers undertake, as a result of which Indian playwriting has remained virtually unborn, except for a few desolate exceptions. Its fate reminds one irresistibly of the powerful poem by Louis MacNeice which says in part:I am not yet born; console me.I fear that the human race may with tall walls wall me,with strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me . . .Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me.Otherwise kill me. By their general indifference to plays written in English by Indian writers, unlike the adulation and acclaim accorded to those Indians who write novels in English, they have nearly succeeded in killing the genre. That is why this book is so important; as are the books of plays by Mahesh Dattani and Gurcharan Das. These, sadly, are more or less all; there are a few individual plays published, usually by the writer himself or herself and some of these are virtually impossible to stage, as the writers have no idea of what works on a stage and what does not. One script that I read was set in a moving train, the action shifting from compartment to compartment. (It can, in theory, be done, but needs a huge effort and lots of money, which theatre groups rarely have.) The second, and more important reason, is that it presents the plays of Poile Sengupta, one of the finest playwrights in the country who is not just a remarkably skilled writer but an equally talented actor and director; so she knows the stage, she knows what is possible on it and what is not. One of the plays in her book (Alipha, pp. 215–241) has a girl actually growing up from scene to scene, from being a child to an adolescent, and then to a young woman. This might seem to be on par with the moving train scenes, in the play I mentioned earlier, but is not. Sengupta knows what she is doing; the girl’s scenes are interspersed by other scenes and she knows that it is indeed possible for an actor to change in the way she shows her changing—it is a challenge to the actor and the director, but Sengupta knows it can be done. Because she has actually ...


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