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At last, a Natyamitra!

Girish Karnad

Edited by Ananda Lal
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2004, pp. xx 562, Rs. 2500.00


A tour de force. There is no other word for it. As Ananda Lal, the editor, points out with justifiable pride in his very first line, “This book is the first of its kind on its subject in any language.” Lal toiled over this magnificent job for seven years and was given full support by the publishers, which is only one of the many reasons for congratulating Oxford University Press. The other reasons include the beautiful design and production of the volume, the immaculate editing and the sumptuous illustrations. The tome has one of the most spectacular covers I have seen in recent years, showing a scene from Neelum Mansingh Chowdhry’s production, Nagachchaya. I need scarcely describe how delighted I am personally by this choice, for Nagachchaya is the Punjabi version of my play, Nagamandala, and Chowdhry’s was one of its most imaginative interpretations.   In his Introduction, Lal spells out the formidable spread of his enterprise. It embraces “both rural and urban modes. It also encompasses all of India geographically and historically…..[A]ll twenty-two languages recognised by the Sahitya Akademi…find space here….[T]he coverage goes back at least two millenia.” The term “theatre” here “spans not just conventional proscenium drama as well as devotional and secular rural performatory genres,but also many varieties of music…. dance…and oral narrative that contain…. acting.” And one must commend his decision to give slightly more weightage to theatre at the expense of dramatic literature “to redress the present imbalance in favour of textual values.” Undoubtedly, the most impressive contribution to the Companion is by K.D. Tripathi, who comprehensively covers the entire span of Sanskrit theatre. Here is scholarship of the highest order, thorough, confident and yet lightly worn. Tripathi provides a majesterial survey of the Sanskrit theatre, introduces individual Sanskrit playwrights and theatre forms, and supplies lucid notes on other concepts such as rasa and abhinaya. This section is so superlative that it alone would justify adding this book to one’s shelf.   But the sixty-three contributors include other very eminent critics as well: Anuradha Kapur, for instance, Govardhan Panchal, Jiwan Pani, Kironmoy Raha, Hasmukh Baradi, Shanta Gokhale, Pratibha Agrawal, Akshara K.V…. The innumerable performance and ritual forms of Kerala are very ably covered by scholars of the eminence of K. Ayyappa Paniker, Kavalam Narayana Panikkar and Kalamandalam Govindan Kutty. Ashish Rajadhyaksha on Cinema and Ashoke ...

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