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Aparna Dharwadker

In his review of Girish Karnad=s Collected Plays (The Book Review, July 2006), Ananda Lal uses the concluding statement from my Introduction to volume 2 of the collection as a Amotto@ (as he puts it), to Ahead into the breach@ of critical disagreement. He assumes, however, that any argument he does not agree with or follow must result from ignorance or critical myopia, on Karnad=s part or mine. It is only appropriate, then, that Lal=s own unexamined certitudes be subjected to scrutiny, especially when they lead him to misunderstand or misrepresent Karnad=s work and/or my commentary on it. The same missteps appear with some regularity in contemporary Indian theatre criticism more generally, so this exchange can hopefully contribute to a broader discussion of the critical methods appropriate to the diverse multilingual field of contemporary theatre. Due to constraints of space my remarks here are necessarily brief, but interested readers can look through fuller versions of many of these arguments in my recently published study, Theatres of Independence (Oxford University Press, 2005).   To begin with, Lal has a curious disregard for the principle of authorial privilege: he complains about the exclusion of Yayati (1961) and Anjumallige (1977) from the Collected Plays, and objects to Karnad=s essay, AIn Search of a New Theatre, on the grounds that it Aahistorically rejects the artistic/intellectual significance of pre-independence dramatists.@ A playwright overseeing a collection of his work in his sixty-eighth year is entitled to effective self-representation. Arranged mainly but not exclusively in chronological order, the present contents of the Collected Plays establish a trajectory that is qualitatively consistent, thematically suggestive, and intriguing in terms of Karnad=s oscillations between Kannada and English and his habit of reworking earlier plays. He rewrote Anjumallige as Driven Snow in English, and has recently completed his own English translation of Yayati. Whether these plays will appear in a subsequent volume of the Collected Plays, or appear together as previously uncollected works, will be for Karnad to decide. I myself found it necessary to begin my overview of Karnad=s playwriting career with a discussion of Yayati, but reflecting on the anomalous status of these two plays in his oeuvre strikes me as critically more interesting than complaining about their exclusion. Lal=s objections to Karnad=s well-known essay are more egregious, and unmindful of the difference between a writer and a theatre historian or critic. AIn Search ...

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