In my hometown there are too highly acclaimed thespians: Ratan Thiyam (1948–) and Heisnam Kanhailal (1941–). The former is more popular for obvious reasons: his ideals are shaped by a pan-India approach and highly influenced by narratives and trends prevalent in mainland parts of the country. He was born in Nabadwip in West Bengal to a Manipuri family. Sample some of his plays: Chakravyuha, Andha Yug, Uttar Priyadarshi, Karanabharam and Ritusamharam.
Both of them are politically engaged, doubtlessly, but their approaches belong to the earlier generations. In fact, Kanhailal (Draupadi, Kabuui-Keioiba, Karna, Laigi Machasinga, Memoirs of Africa, Migi Sharang, Pebet and Tamnalai) is so rooted, with his focus on native folklores and folktales that he is lesser popular than Thiyam—albeit nobody dare questions their philosophies about this art form. Kanhailal’s plays have purer titles in our native language, Meeteilon, but he is the founder of Kalakshetra Manipur. The name!
They belong to the same school: the Theatre of Roots, which can be traced back to India of the 1960s. This school was an experiment for a few mainland artists, who were caught in the Indian supposedly past glories and the then recently found independence—as in a manner of India-versus-the-west—which necessitated a new style, particularly of going back to the roots. Kanhailal has rephrased the term; he called it the Theatre of the Earth and has dived deep to recover the folk narratives, of course, with great success.
The theatre, as seen from these two Manipuri big shots, is no different from contemporary local scenes in music and films that emphasise mostly on aestheticism, though there might be exceptions.
This post is a collection of a few ass-kicking plays in English from both sides of the world. Most of these have a common theme: morality. Because human being is the supreme moral animal! What I had intended was to list only political plays in this post but I could hardly find any well-known play—maybe it’s just my sheer ignorance that I could find only a couple of them like Mother Courage.
A reason why there is a dearth of political plays, I have found from numerous sources, is the inability of the theatre to bring any societal change though it does raise the collective consciousness level. Then there are reasons attributed to fundamentalism and escapism, particularly in India. The trend of political plays picked up only during the first quarter of the 20th century. Besides political plays are in an infant stage when compared to other genres. In these post-colonial days, the equation of using art as political statements has also changed tremendously. Finally, Internet has killed the traditional stars! This is most conspicuous in debates around the death or rebirth of another traditional media: the newspapers.
PS: Oh and in my hometown, morality is measured by the warmness of condoms found by moral police during raids in seedy fast-food stalls. All the world’s a stage and all the men and women are a protagonist in their own ways in the town.
|Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes|
- Gay and nudity
- Drugs and homosexuality
- Internet pornography