Friday, May 28, 2010


Michael has broken many grounds in this ballad. He has introduced a new style …’amitrakshar chhanda’ ( the lines of his ballad do not rhyme : blank verse). More importantly, he has portrayed the characters of Ram, Lakshman , Ravan and Meghnad in a very unconventional way. The story has been told in several layers and he followed western grammar of epics , specially Virgil.

While Michael has shown Ravan and Meghnad are victims of Destiny (the poet has repeatedly used the word ‘Bidhi’ which means ‘the god above’), his narration brings out a picture of conspiracy by the gods and deception by Ram’s camp being at the root of defeat and fall of Meghnad, not the valour of Lakshman. He has portrayed Meghnad as invincible in face-to-face battle with both Indra, king of gods (that is why he used to be called ‘Indrajit’,he who vanquishes Indra) and Ram.

‘….duibaar aami haranu Raghave, aar ekbaar pitah deha aajnaa more;dekhiba ebaar beer baanche ki oushadhe! – twice I defeated Raghav ; father, you give me permission once more, let’s see which medicine brings him back to life this time ) !

Night of the long knives : Indra convinces Parbati to influence Shiva in accepting that Ravan and Indrajit do not deserve any more support of Shiva. Kamadev aids the process. With Shiva’s acceptance of the proposal in principle , Mahamaya hands over the weapons Kartikeya used to kill Tarakasur and Indra arranges to deliver the same to Lakshman before the day-break.

Deception : Bibheesan shows the path to the place where Meghnad has lighted the fire for his Yagna at dawn before he will proceed for the battle and obstructs Meghnad’s exit for acquiring weapons to fight Lakshman . Please view the panel Bengal’s artist portrayed decades prior to Michael’s penning this ballad.

Bibheeshan and Lakshman enters the premises where Meghnaad

has started ‘Nikumbhila Yagna. Terra Cotta panel, Ramcandra Temple, Guptipara,WB. Late 18th century least 80 years before Michael wrote this ballad!

By:Shyamal Chattergi

Too many Ramayanas- the hindu and buddhist tellings

Rama’s story has been told in many religions. Although the Rama story is not, as such, a Hindu story, the Hindu versions are very ancient. In this article, I’d like to stress upon one thing- The characters and happenings of Ramayana can be looked from a variety of religious traditions including, and not limited to, Hinduism. The Hindu versions of Ramayana are attributed to authors recognized as religiously inspired sages or poets. According to Hinduism, everytime the order (social, political) of the world is threatened by sources of disrespect and disharmony, lord Vishnu incarnates in some form. One such form is Rama. His enemy is Ravana, who is a demonic figure who acts in ways that generate disorder in the cosmos and turbulence in society.

However, Buddhism presents with two well known tellings of Ramayana. The first is Dasaratha Jataka which is argued by many to be the first Ramayana. The second is the one written in the Phra Lak/Phra Lam. The teller of Dasaratha Jataka is believed to be Buddha himself, who preached stories of his previous births (Jataka tales) during his stay at the Jetavana monastery. Here, the enemy is not personified, and the “victory” is purely spiritual. In this distinctive crystallization of the Rama story, the enemy is the kind of desirous attachment that binds persons to this-worldly life; and the victory comes when the exiled Rama confronts the news of his father’s untimely death with an appropriately Buddhist attitude of equanimity and an appropriately Buddhist commitment to compassionate activity. In Phra Lak/Phra Lam, Ravana is identified as an earlier form of Mara, the personalized embodiment of desire and death whom the Buddha defeats again and again during the course of his final life as Goutama.

Sourav Roy

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

150th birth anniversary celebrations of Rabindranath Tagore

Prakriti Foundation


a Poetry with Prakriti festival outreach: a tribute for the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Rabindranath Tagore and 100 years of the publication of Dakghar




Principal Text: Rabindranath Tagore

Additional Text: Thema book of Naxalite Poetry, Aga Shahid Ali and Dhumketu

Directed and designed by Parnab Mukherjee

Video-essay: Someetharan

Installation: Gautam Bajoria


Why Dakghar? Why a tribute and not a production of the origninal in-toto...Let's just flesh out the details first. In a range that would include about 2,230 songs and eight novels/four novellas and numerous letters, Tagore's performance text holds a special significance in the history of theatre. His journey began when he was sixteen and played the lead Jyotirindranath's adaptation of Moliere's celebratd Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. His fist tryst with a theatre performance piece was Balmiki Pratibha (The Genius of Valmiki) shown in salon/intimate setting in Tagore's own house. In 1890 he wrote Visarjan (Sacrifice)and in 1911-1912, he came up with the classic Dakghar (The Post Office) both in Bangla and in an English translation which he carefully supervised.

During World War II (specifically on July 18, 1942), Polish educator and doctor, Janusz Korczak directed the orphans of the Warsaw ghetto in a moving performance of Dakghar before they were moved to Trebelinka concentration camp. Mahatma Gandhi was moved by Dakghar and Andre Gide read the French version on radio as World War II clouds were looming. Dakghar received rave reviews in Germany and Irish theatre during Tagore's lifetime and interestingly on October 2008 has been commemorated in a stamp by the Department of Posts in Bangalore.

Amal, a terminally ill kid standing on the precipice of death is stuck in a closed room. Sitting inside, he imagines the democracy of open spaces, of the world that he cannot access, the possibility of a king's arrival and the indefatigueable urge to learn from everybody passing by the details of life. Finally, the royal physician carries a letter from the King which eases the child. Does he die or moves to another domain?

What is that domain? Is it a common nationality..Tagore and H.G. Wells met in Geneva in early June, 1930. ....Let have a rewind of their conversation...

TAGORE: The tendency in modern civilization is to make the world uniform. Calcutta, Bombay, Hong Kong, and other cities are more or less alike, wearing big masks which represent no country in particular.

WELLS: Yet don't you think that this very fact is an indication that we are reaching out for a new world-wide human order which refuses to be localized?

TAGORE: Our individual physiognomy need not be the same. Let the mind be universal. The individual should not be sacrificed.

WELLS: We are gradually thinking now of one human civilization on the foundation of which individualities will have great chance of fulfillment. The individual, as we take him, has suffered from the fact that civilization has been split up into separate units, instead of being merged into a universal whole, which seems to be the natural destiny of mankind.

TAGORE: I believe the unity of human civilization can be better maintained by linking up in fellowship and cooperation of the different civilizations of the world. Do you think there is a tendency to have one common language for humanity?

WELLS: One common language will probably be forced upon mankind whether we like it or not. Previously, a community of fine minds created a new dialect. Now it is necessity that will compel us to adopt a universal language.

TAGORE: I quite agree. The time for five-mile dialects is fast vanishing. Rapid communication makes for a common language. Yet, this common language would probably not exclude national languages. There is again the curious fact that just now, along with the growing unities of the human mind, the development of national self-consciousness is leading to the formation or rather the revival of national languages everywhere. Don't you think that in America, in spite of constant touch between America and England, the English language is tending toward a definite modification and change?

WELLS: I wonder if that is the case now. Forty or fifty years ago this would have been the case, but now in literature and in common speech it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish between English and American. There seems to be much more repercussion in the other direction. Today we are elaborating and perfecting physical methods of transmitting words. Translation is a bother. Take your poems - do they not lose much by that process? If you had a method of making them intelligible to all people at the same time, it would be really wonderful.

TAGORE: Music of different nations has a common psychological foundation, and yet that does not mean that national music should not exist. The same thing is, in my opinion, probably true for literature.

WELLS: Modern music is going from one country to another without loss - from Purcell to Bach, then Brahms, then Russian music, then oriental. Music is of all things in the world most international.

TAGORE: May I add something? I have composed more than three hundred pieces of music. They are all sealed from the West because they cannot properly be given to you in your own notation. Perhaps they would not be intelligible to your people even if I could get them written down in European notation.

WELLS: The West may get used to your music.

TAGORE: Certain forms of tunes and melodies which move us profoundly seem to baffle Western listeners; yet, as you say, perhaps closer acquaintance with them may gradually lead to their appreciation in the West.

WELLS: Artistic expression in the future will probably be quite different from what it is today; the medium will be the same and comprehensible to all. Take radio, which links together the world. And we cannot prevent further invention. Perhaps in the future, when the present clamor for national languages and dialects in broadcasting subsides, and new discoveries in science are made, we shall be conversing with one another through a common medium of speech yet undreamed of.

TAGORE: We have to create the new psychology needed for this age. We have to adjust ourselves to the new necessities and conditions of civilization.

WELLS: Adjustments, terrible adjustments!

TAGORE: Do you think there are any fundamental racial difficulties?

WELLS: No. New races are appearing and reappearing, perpetual fluctuations. There have been race mixtures from the earliest times; India is the supreme example of this. In Bengal, for instance, there has been an amazing mixture of races in spite of caste and other barriers.

TAGORE: Then there is the question of racial pride. Can the West fully acknowledge the East? If mutual acceptance is not possible, then I shall be very sorry for that country which rejects another's culture. Study can bring no harm, though men like Dr. Haas and Henri Matisse seem to think that the eastern mind should not go outside eastern countries, and then everything will be all right.

WELLS: I hope you disagree. So do I!

TAGORE: It is regrettable that any race or nation should claim divine favoritism and assume inherent superiority to all others in the scheme of creation.

WELLS: The supremacy of the West is only a question of probably the past hundred years. Before the battle of Lepanto the Turks were dominating the West; the voyage of Columbus was undertaken to avoid the Turks. Elizabethan writers and even their successors were struck by the wealth and the high material standards of the East. The history of western ascendancy is very brief indeed.

TAGORE: Physical science of the nineteenth century probably has created this spirit of race superiority in the West. When the East assimilates this physical science, the tide may turn and take a normal course.

WELLS: Modern science is not exactly European. A series of accidents and peculiar circumstances prevented some of the eastern countries from applying the discoveries made by humanists in other parts of the world. They themselves had once originated and developed a great many of the sciences that were later taken up by the West and given greater perfection. Today, Japanese, Chinese and Indian names in the world of science are gaining due recognition.

TAGORE: India has been in a bad situation.

WELLS: When Macaulay imposed a third-rate literature and a poor system of education on India, Indians naturally resented it. No human being can live on Scott's poetry. I believe that things are now changing. But, remain assured, we English were not better off. We were no less badly educated than the average Indian, probably even worse.

TAGORE: Our difficulty is that our contact with the great civilizations of the West has not been a natural one. Japan has absorbed more of the western culture because she has been free to accept or reject according to her needs.

WELLS: It is a very bad story indeed, because there have been such great opportunities for knowing each other.
TAGORE: And then, the channels of education have become dry river beds, the current of our resources having been systematically been diverted along other directions.

WELLS: I am also a member of a subject race. I am taxed enormously. I have to send my check - so much for military aviation, so much for the diplomatic machinery of the government! You see, we suffer from the same evils. In India, the tradition of officialdom is, of course, more unnatural and has been going on for a long time. The Moguls, before the English came, seem to have been as indiscriminate as our own people.

TAGORE: And yet, there is a difference! The Mogul government was not scientifically efficient and mechanical to a degree. The Moguls wanted money, and so long as they could live in luxury they did not wish to interfere with the progressive village communities in India. The Muslim emperors did not dictate terms and force the hands of Indian educators and villagers. Now, for instance, the ancient educational systems of India are completely disorganized, and all indigenous educational effort has to depend on official recognition.

WELLS: "Recognition" by the state, and good-bye to education!
TAGORE: I have often been asked what my plans are. My reply is that I have no scheme. My country, like every other, will evolve its own constitution; it will pass through its experimental phase and settle down into something quite different from what you or I expect.

Using Aga Shahid Ali's Country Without a Post Office, a video trribute of the exiled young Sri Lankan filmmaker Somieetharan and Gujarati legend Dhumketu's story Post Office...the performance creates a haunting tribute/interpretation of Tagore's text.

The play deals with the core issue of what dies within us before we actually die.

Using installation as a metaphor and unrelenting images through puppets and video fragments that range from Dantewada to philosopher Zizek, the perfothe performance searches for the version of utopia that is neither downloadable nor steeped in some clever praxis.

Amal, of the Dakghar, lives to fight another day.

About the director:

An independent media analyst and a performance consultant by profession, Mr. Parnab Mukherjee is one of the leading alternative theatre directors' of the country. He divides his time between Kolkata, Imphal and the Darjeeling hills.

Currently, a consultant with two publication initiatives, he has earlier worked for a sports fortnightly, an English daily and a Bengali daily. He is an acclaimed authority on Badal Sircar's theatre, Shakespeare-in-education and specialises in theatre-for-conflict-resolution and theatre-of-the-campus.

He is considered as a leading light in alternative theatre in the country having directed more than 150 full-length/workshop productions. These include full-length plays, workshop performances, theatre interventions, non-verbal texts, invisible theatre, promenade theatre, structured work-in-progress, site-specific theatre and installation-based performance.

Parnab has created a personal idiom of using spaces for theatre exploration. He has extensively worked on a range of human rights issues which include specific theatre projects on anti-uranium project struggle in Jadugoda, Save Tenzin Delek campaign, rehabilitation after industrial shutdowns, shelter issue of the de-notified tribes, a widely acclaimed cycle of 12 plays against Gujarat genocide, and a range of issues on north-east with special reference to Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958.

He is the artistic director of Best of Kolkata Campus- an autonomous non-registered performance collective and a performance foundry, that has completed 18 years of doing dedicated theatre in found spaces and public arena.

Some of the most memorable productions of the collective include Trilogy of Unrest (Hamletmachine, Necropolis, This room is not my room), River Series (used as a exploratory adocacy tool by Unifem, Undoc and Kripa Foundation), Only Curfew, Rehearsing Antigone, Raktakarabi-an urban sound opera, Buddha Files, Kasper-dipped and shredded, They Also Work, Dead-Talk series, Conversations with the dead, Crisis of Civilisation, Shakespeare shorts, Man to Man talk, Inviting Ibsen for a Dinner with Ibsen, Your path wrong path and And the Dead Tree Gives no Shelter.

Four of his major workshop modules: Freedomspeak, The Otherness of the Body, Conflict as a Text and The Elastic Body have been conducted with major theatre groups and campuses all over the country. He has written four books of performance texts. He curates a series called Talk Gandhi and the Festival of Here and Now.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Arundhati Roy : the GREAT WRITER ,ACTIVIST

Arundhati Roy (born November 24, 1961) is an Indian novelist, activist and a world citizen. She won the Booker Prize in 1997 for her first novel The God of Small Things.

Roy was born in Shillong, Meghalaya to a Keralite Syrian Christian mother and a Bengali Hindu father, a tea planter by profession. She spent her childhood in Aymanam, in Kerala, schooling in Corpus Christi. She left Kerala for Delhi at age 16, and embarked on a homeless lifestyle, staying in a small hut with a tin roof within the walls of Delhi's Feroz Shah Kotla and making a living selling empty bottles. She then proceeded to study architecture at the Delhi School of Architecture, where she met her first husband, the architect Gerard Da Cunha.

The God of Small Things is the only novel written by Roy. Since winning the Booker Prize, she has concentrated her writing on political issues. These include the Narmada Dam project, India's Nuclear Weapons, corrupt power company Enron's activities in India. She is a figure-head of the anti-globalization/alter-globalization movement and a vehement critic of neo-imperialism.

In response to India's testing of nuclear weapons in Pokhran, Rajasthan, Roy wrote The End of Imagination, a critique of the Indian government's nuclear policies. It was published in her collection The Cost of Living, in which she also crusaded against India's massive hydroelectric dam projects in the central and western states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. She has since devoted herself solely to nonfiction and politics, publishing two more collections of essays as well as working for social causes.

Roy was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize in May 2004 for her work in social campaigns and advocacy of non-violence.

In June 2005 she took part in the World Tribunal on Iraq. In January 2006 she was awarded the Sahitya Akademi award for her collection of essays, 'The Algebra of Infinite Justice', but declined to accept it.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Theatre has been Sarachchandra's lifelong passion. As a young professor at the University of Ceylon, Sarachchandra produced sinhalese adaptations of Anton Chekov, Oscar Wilde and Moliere. But Western plays he decided, "never got to the root of our people." He searched the villages for dramatic forms in his quest to identify an indigenous theatre. Together with his students and scholars he investigated folk rituals and dramas in villages of the south, as well as in the Kandyan hills and some parts of the Tamil north. The epoch making play Maname was a result of his dedicated effort. Maname's sensational reception established Sarachchandra's stylised play as a popular genre. A stunning revival of sinhala theatre followed.

Among Sarachchandra's repertoire of plays, Maname, Sinhabahu, Pematho Jayathi Soko , Mahasara and Lomahansa are considered to be a few of the finest. His plays still continues to attract and hold audiences. Sarachchandra has no rival as Sri Lanka's national dramatist.


Concluding the review of Sarath Amunugama's 'Maname Mathakvi'

Who then was Ediriweera Sarachchandra?
Sunday essay by Ajith Samaranayake

The most intriguing aspect of this book is the thesis that Sarath Amunugama develops about Sarachchandra's position in the contemporaneous power structure.

Sarachchandra then was part path-finder and part Godfather but what is true is that he was the undisputable father of modern Sinhala drama who struck a chord among his audiences by bringing about a felicitous marriage between the cultural moment and the cultural product.
Using Foucault's post-modernist concept of civil authority Amunugama views Sarachchandra not merely as a university teacher, dramatist or writer but as also an authority figure in the intellectual and artistic establishment of his time capable of wielding considerable civil influence.

His contention is that Sarachchandra was part of a trinity (the other two figures were M. J. Perera and D. G. Dayaratne, both civil servants) which saw it as its self-anointed task the shaping of taste in the newly-awakened Sri Lankan nation. In fact Sarachchandra himself had sat for the Ceylon Civil Service examination but had failed the viva voce presumably because of the kurtha which he had worn for the interview and his nationalist views. Amunugama hints that Perera and Dayaratne having sat for the examination in London, the citadel of imperial power would have stood better a chance than Sarachchandra.

Anyway by the time Sarachchandra had become the doyen of cultural fashion at Peradeniya (a kind of Sri Lankan Leavis) and was producing 'Maname', M. J. Perera was the Director General of the then Radio Ceylon which was part of the Information Department.

A new intelligentsia had arrived on the scene as the fruit of Free Education and was keen to assert itself in the intellectual and cultural life of the nation. They were bi-lingual but scorned the slavish westernisation which had been the badge of their predecessors who had devotedly worshipped the doddering Anglo-Saxon gods.

They were mostly products of the Peradeniya University which was a thriving intellectual centre in contrast to the shells into which today's universities have been transformed. As Amunugama points out the staff consisted of a galaxy of intellectual talent and the young students of the time were stirred by the writings of H. A. de S. Gunasekera on the Sri Lankan banking system, Das Gupta on the economy, Ralph Peiris on the Sinhala social organisation, Siri Gunasinghe on Indian art, Sarachchandra and W. S. Karunaratne on Buddhist philosophy and Karl Gunawardena on the Dutch period in Sri Lanka.

The University possessed one of the finest libraries of the time and its famed 'Ceylon Room' had such rich archival material as the writings and letters of Anagarika Dharmapala, D. B. Jayatilleke, Ponnambalam Arunachalam and Sir James Peiris. It is Amunugama's contention that Perera and Dayaratne as civil servants used the young Peradeniya intellectuals as vehicles to take new thinking and values to the people with Radio Ceylon as their main organ.

Certainly it would be true to say that Sarachchandra saw himself as a modernist intellectual in a society still warped by semi-feudal and colonial features and a crusader slaying the dragons of vulgarity and cultural backwardness. Like F. R. Leavis he became the guru of a coterie of intellectuals, writers and poets who saw themselves as the vanguard of the literary and cultural renaissance of the day. Hence the term 'Peradeniya School' or 'Peradeniya Period' which have been used both in complimentary as well as pejorative senses.

Amunugama argues that it was this modernist outlook on Sarathchandra's part which made him the butt end for the fierce attacks of the tradionalists spearheaded by the Colombo School although Sarachchandra himself was a teacher of Sinhala who had written a doctoral thesis on Buddhist philosophy. The contradiction here was that although Sarachchandra was a modernist by intellectual temperament all his major dramas would be derived from Buddhist literature or Sinhala folk lore and made use of traditional or stylised dramatic methods.

The traditionalists, however fought back for although the Peradeniya coterie commanded Radio Ceylon influential sections of the print media were in the hands of the traditionalist rearguard. The Editor of the Lake House Sunday Sinhala daily 'Silumina' was Meemana Prematilleke, a stalwart Colombo School poet, while Sisira Kumara Manikkaarachchi who wrote the anti-Peradeniya tract named 'Sahitya Kollaya' was a feature writer of the Lake House Sinhala daily 'Dinamina'.

However the fact that the latter was not allowed to publish his book under his own name but had to have recourse to the nom-de-geurre of 'Wansanatha Deshabandhu' (because he was a Lake House employee) vindicates Amunugama's argument that Sarachchandra had powerful media backers among whom he includes Mrs. Nalini Wickramasinghe, the mother of the Prime Minister.

However his contention that Sri Chandraratne Manawasinghe had written a laudatory review of 'Maname' in his 'Wagatuga' column in the 'Lankadeepa' probably on the instigation of its Editor D. B. Dhanapala is debatable since Manawasinghe was too independent a writer to give into either cajolings or blandishments.

Who then was ultimately Ediriweera Sarachchandra? Was he the serious shaper and moulder of artistic and cultural taste in post-Independence Sri Lanka or merely the Godfather of an intellectual Mafia tucked away in the hills of Hantane?

Amunugama does not provide an answer but in the light of the confessions of Gunadasa Amarasekera in the mid-1960s and the now largely-forgotten controversies between the two there is at least some valid reason to believe that some of Sarachchandra's literary assessments were not quite on target.

But the very fact that Amarasekera who was portrayed at the time as Sarachchandra's favoured protege was able to recant his earlier writings and transmogrify himself into a master of literary realism and a spiritual prophet shows at least tangenitally Sarachchandra's powerful influence.

Certainly the fond portrait which Amarasekera has drawn of his old guru in his later series of semi-autobiographical novels shows Sarachchandra in the light of his old Peradeniya days.

Sarachchandra then was part path-finder and part Godfather but what is true and what Amunugama seeks to bring out in this work is that he was the undisputable father of modern Sinhala drama who struck a chord among his audiences by bringing about a felicitous marriage between the cultural moment and the cultural product.


Sunday, 16 November 2003