New Login   

Ananda Lal

By Girish Karnad
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 319 & 301, Rs. 495.00 and 545.00 respectively.


The editor of this periodical has a wry sense of humour. She requested Girish Karnad to review the Oxford Companion to Indian Theatre, edited by me. Now she asks me to review Karnad’s Collected Plays, also published by Oxford University Press. Readers will appreciate the subtle trap in which she has placed me, not unlike those we typically encounter in Karnad’s drama. If I praise the set (which naturally I should), wags will nod their heads knowingly and joke that we belong to the Mutual Back-slapping Society. Therefore the only face-saving option for me is to criticize, so as to earn the tag of fairness. Yet how do I criticize an author as feted as Karnad, unanimously respected as substantial contributor to contemporary Indian theatre, on whom I myself have written articles and entries in international encyclopedias, and derived great pleasure in teaching to students?   It is virtually unthinkable, given that this anthology comprises such iconic and influential texts as Tughlaq, Hayavadana, Naga-Mandala (in volume one), Tale-Danda and The Fire and the Rain (in volume two). So much has been published about them, a reviewer can add precious little. Furthermore, the first volume includes the full alternate ending to Naga-Mandala (we may crib, of course, that we are not informed that it differs from OUP’s first edition) and Bali, the recent reworking in English of Karnad’s earlier Hittina Hunja. The second volume also contains The Dreams of Tipu Sultan and two new monologues printed for the first time, Flowers and Broken Images. To top it all, Professor Aparna Bhargava Dharwadker of the University of Wisconsin introduces each volume with a lucid essay analysing the individual plays, the two essays combining to form a major 63-page overview of Karnad’s oeuvre.   I cannot have any quarrel with the plays. Like the overwhelming majority of viewers and readers, I find them clever and thoughtful, always provocative and remarkably theatrical. Even the latest monologues display the characteristic Karnad (Karnadic? Karnadian?) touch, both employing his recurrent device of a sensual triangle, but switching the usual situation of one woman with two men to one man with two women. Derived from a Kannada folktale, Flowers features a priest who falls for a courtesan and cheats on his wife. Its high difficulty level – solo narration by the man for nearly an hour – has inhibited any performance so far, but it functions equally ...

Table of Contents >>
Please or to Read Entire Article

Free Access Online 12 Back Issues
with 1 year's subscription
Archive (1976-2011)
under construction.