ITF Not the Drama Seminar - Talk by Aparna Dharwadkar
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Organised fifty years after the original Drama Seminar in 1957, the Not the Drama Seminar (NTDS) brought together theatre practitioners from all across the country to convene at Ninasam, Heggodu in March 2008. This seminar meditated on the nature of theatre in India today, on how we got to where we are. The attempt was to understand 'Indian Theatre' in all its multiplicity and diversity, bringing these several faces of Indian theatre face-to-face, and to problemetise the issues that arise therein. These ideas were exchanged through a series of presentations and discussions over five days, and each day ended with a performance.
Talk by Aparna Dharwadkar
CRITICISM, CRITIQUE AND TRANSLATION
in Contemporary Indian Theatre
Ninasam, Heggodu, Karnataka
SD: This morning we have a talk by Aparna Dharwadkar. Aparna teaches at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, USA. She is the author of a very very finely written book called Theatres of Independance. It came out last year from OUE, those of you who haven't seen it, I would urge you to go take a look at it. ..And she is going to talk about criticism, translation and so on. Aparna...
AD: ..Theatres of Discipline copy of my book in the display, and we have some flyers, so do take a look ...
AD: I am going to read only some portions of my paper and with the rest of the text I am going to pick up on specific points. And so you can just follow along with the text in your booklet. And you've all had the text for 4 days. So hopefully most of you had a chance to go over it and follow the arguement.
AD: I also want to pick on few things that have been said in the last couple of days. One: yesterday it seemed to me that the talks by Sainath and Akshar were examples of a kind of critical intelligence brought to bear on political and cultural issues, and the subject of my talk today is Criticism and Critique. And in both cases what they were engaging in was critique. So I think we can very usefully keep those two talks as models of the kind of activity we are talking about in terms of responding to theatre. And ..I got really energised yesterday and it seems to me that you need exactly that kind of intelligence, clarity and passion to...you know, when we think about theatre and when we write about theatre.
AD: I also want to say something that to me seems to be a widespread misuse of the word theory. This has already come up yesterday. There have been statements to the effect that people don't do theory, or are not interested in it. And others including Shiva and Sudhanva and Sunder argued yesterday that there is...I think Sudhanva said that there is a great need to articulate theory. Shiva was arguing that theory is not something that is incompatible with action and activisms. And I think Sundar sort of seconded that.
AD: Lets be clear about this. 'Theory' is the articulation of principles that underline practice of any kind, whether it is artistic, cultural, social or political. There is no practice without either an explicit or an implicit theory. At least in my view the apparent absence of theory is merely the sign of a less reflective practice. Just as the apparent absence of politics in art is a sign of a less overt politics. There have been a number of writers, including fiction writers and poets who have argued that our work is not political. What that means is that the politics is not overt, the politics is not something that they are openly engaging with or articulating.
AD: So when people say that they are not interested in theory, what they mean is that they are not primarily concerned with articulating the ideas underlying their practice. They do not want to verbalize it, they do not want to reflect on it, they do not want to intellectualise it. And this in itself is a perfectly legitimate position. I am not arguing with that, because theatre artistes have different priorities and different styles and I think it is the case in general that people who are engaged in the performing arts hold this position much more frequently than those who are engaged in the print literary forms.
AD: I think what is problematic is the assumption that practice can be disengaged from other kinds of activities. As I have argued in my paper also, that it becomes a self–sufficient activity and an end in itself. That's when I think that the problem starts. And this brings me to my third point- Cultural forms like theatre and performance have multiple modes of existence that unfold simultaneously. Some kind of theory precedes any practice. Practice creates history in its way, that's what in relation to theatre the 'discipline of theatre' history is all about. And practice endures because of the attention it receives in criticism. So theory, history and criticism are the necessary co-relates to practice. And that's as true to theatre as of literature in general.
AD: A long time ago, in the late 1940's there was a study called 'Theory of Literature', by Rene Welleck and Austin Warren and that was the argument, that theory, history, criticism and practice in literature are simultaneous. You cannot separate one from the other. The same argument applies to considerations in theatre. That being said, my main focus here will be on purposes and varieties of criticism. So I'm not going to talk anymore about theory and history. We all are in a sense reflecting on that. My focus here- and this was something that was done at Sudhanva's request- the topic was basically something that he gave to me and I agreed to talk about it.
AD: The caveat about language that I have at the beginning of my paper is essential. I don't want to make fallacious assumptions about the state of theatre criticism in languages that I do not read myself. In the 2 languages that I do know- Marathi and Hindi, I know that the state of criticism is better than it is in English, and I find this ironical for two reasons. One that the state of crtiticism should be weaker in what by choice and default has become the link language in India. I made a couple of statements to that effect in the beginning of the paper. We have all been discoursing in English. A lot of work is being translated into English. The project that I am engaged in and a number of other people are engaged in similar projects of bringing criticism from Indian languages altogether- All of this is going to be done in English- is done in English. Yet, it seems that the state of criticism, theatre criticism in English is weaker than in most languages.
AD: The second irony is that English in this way should be a weak medium for theatre criticism. When it is the vehicle, already in India, of extremely sophisticated social science, history, philosophy, political science, journalism and literary criticism. So every other field seems to have flourished with English as its medium and I am only talking about the critical use of English, and not the creative use of English. We all know what has happened to the South-Asian writers especially those who now belong to the global Diaspora.
AD: These are very ironic things and I think they really need a very systematic reflection. Now, in terms of the actual... I come to the text of the paper itself, and I had sort of reproduced six anonymous passages, and I'm still not going to divulge the author that you're interested in...you can bribe me and I'll let you know.
AD: What I want you to do is, turn to page 3, to talk about what comes out of these commentaries on the function of criticism. That title by the way is something that has been used periodically and strategically by western modern theatres, you know that Mathew Arnold has a function of criticism at the present time in 1865, and Elliot had a function of criticism sometime in the early 1920's, and Terry Eagleton had 'The Function of Criticism' as the title of a whole new book more recently. (?)'s introduction to 'Anatomy of Criticism' is called 'Function of Criticism' at the present time.
AD: This is all indicative of the fact that this is something that people keep coming back to at regular intervals because, the task of criticism needs that kind of self reflection. So again, if you've not had a chance to read through those passages, I invite you to do that at some point. What is coming out of that is what I have summarised on page 3: One, that criticism is a key mode of debate and intellectual exchange in the modern public sphere. It is a mode of public, republic exchange of ideas. You know...open and public.Its not a private act.
AD: The second principle is that the creative act may be primary, and the critical act secondary, as a couple of those people have argued. But again, I think its ironic but one has to reiterate this. The critical act is not second grade, it is not subservient, and it is not dispensable. In fact, again as one of the passages points out, for many writers, the political faculty plays an important role in the act of writing itself. And I'm sure that the same is true of theatre practice- Playwrights and directors...you know, it is not possible to produce anythihg creatively, unless you yourself are sort of critically reflecting on it, in various measures. Not everybody does it to the same extent, but I think it is, as one of our anonymous authors pointed out, this happens all the time in the act of creating itself, whatever your medium.
AD: Third- At a given moment in culture, the collective output of artists consists an inter-related system and artists benefitted the more from an unconscious to a conscious sense of community. And I think this event fits right into it. This is...and I was talking with Sanjana just before this session...- The importance of generating that sense of community. All of the first generation playwrights and directors that I have talked to in the course of my work on Indian theatre, have said that they are nostalgic about the 60'S and 70's. And they all talk about how energized they were because they were so closely in touch with each other. Almost everybody feels that that movement has got dissipated, primarily- to go back to Akshara's discussion yesterday- because of the media of mass reproduction- film and television. It has dissipated a lot of energy out of theatre. And criticism is vital to this because it is the instrument that makes this consciousness possible. How do we relate to each other except through that open exchange of ideas and debate?
AD: Fourth- Post-independence Indian theatre was marked initially by a great deal of self-reflexive criticism and a powerful sense of community. But those energies have begun to dissipate, (I think I made this point already) and restoring them should be a priority for both practitioners and critics. And it is very interesting that in some respects there was more theoretical and critical energies in relation to theatre amongst figures like Bhartendu Harshad in the late 19th century, Rabindranath Tagore and Jaishanker Prasad, than we have seen in a sense in the post IPTA period, the 40's upto about the mid 1950's. The IPTA manifesto was, ofcourse, an absolute explosion of critical energies and even the Drama seminar, which we do not wish to be now, had some seminal essays by Alkazhi and Shombhu Mitra and Mul Raj Anand and others. Its a voluminous text and it has recently been published as a book without any editorial intervention by the Sangeet Natak Akademy. Much of it is really...now irrelevant. But I do invite you to look at that volume sometime and read the essays by the practitioners who later did have major careers in port-independance theatre.
AD: Now to move to my second anonymous list, the kinds of responses I've had in my own work, from various directors that I've met in the last few months,- again the important thing is to locate how those responses have exemplified some of the problems that are real problems. One is the assertion that the actual experience of a live performance is the only true knowledge that one can acquire about that performance.
AD: It is simply, firstly, in practical terms, it is simply not possible, and it is simply not true that that was the only genuine mode of knowledge. It is one of the modes of knowledge, and if you were to take this- ... (tape cut, transcript from audio source: argument to its logical conclusion you would need theatre history because as all theatre history does is to revisit the past and represent the theatrical past. If you cannot have any knowledge of the past without actually watching anything, then there cannot be a discipline of theatre history. Another very problematic assumption is that criticism should only serve the cause of that theatre that we would like to promote. Another is that theatre criticism should be exclusive not inclusive and again that the)... -knowledge is possible only when one immerses oneself in a particular kind of theatre and consciously evades all of the other kinds that are being practiced at any given moment.
AD: And I think this attitude is very well entrenched at the idea that 'really all I need to do is to be interested in myself because to be interested in others is a distraction'. Then there is the assumption that if you are not interested in talking about your work, then nobody one else should be interested in talking about your work either. And you know, ...the third, fourth and fifth directors I've quoted- I think the lesson from that is that the whimsy of practitioners cannot determine the critical considerations of a theatre work. If our task is a critical task then we have to persist regardless of the kind of the indifferences, dismissal and evasion we encounter.
AD: And to sum this up, this is the last paragraph at the end of the second session- Creativity does not flourish in a vacuum: it dies without a commensurate critical effort. The indifference of most current theatre practitioners to the afterlife of their work is problematic enough, but to dismiss ALL concern with that afterlife as superfluous, is a self-defeating, anti-intellectual move.
AD: I Think this is the point where the idea that the creative and critical faculties are separate in most cases. I think its a useful idea to keep in mind.
AD: That third session is sort of a critique of this idea that performance is a self-sufficient event. And I have again given you 3 examples- NSD, the tenth Bharat Rang Mahotsav that I saw n January, The Mahindra festival that I saw in February-March, and a number of people that were there for these festivals I think are here. And then the third event, a very small obscure event from our point of view, and that is one single production by a university theatre in the department where I teach at the University of Wisconsin. And in here, after my paper, in your booklet you will see a flyer which announces all of those events that were organised around a single production- the stage version of Toni Morrisson's novel, The Bluest Eye.
AD: Now in my opinion, the NSD and the Mahindra festivals are examples of unmediated performances, There is nothing to thicken the experience, there is nothing to deepen the experience. I think the main ethical issue here is that its almost like a cost-benefit analysis. What is the public and the private expenditure? I'm sure every one of us has thought about that.I am not in the know, some of you may be in the know, some of you are beneficiaries of the patronage that is dispenced in these festivals,- and again, I am not criticising that fact. In fact what I'm saying is you as practitioners should gain more out of it than what you're getting this barrage oof one performance after another.
AD: For how many years is this trend going to continue? What is going to be its cumulative value? And what will be the point of it? After a few years what exactly- you had 10 NSD festivals, 3 Mahindra festivals- yet things are going to continue in exactly the same way. Ultimately what is going to be the point of it?
AD: And again it seems to me that any initiative for change in these formats has to come through the theatre community or practitioners and audiences. I think in one case at least, public institution is accountable to the public, and so I think the public should make itself heard through whatever available forums there are. And again I think you have a much better sense of what these forums are than I do.
AD: I've contrasted these heavy weight events - in the national context I think these are heavy-weight events- the
Mahindra festival and the NSD festival. I've contrasted them with a very modest university theatre production because of the point that I have made in the last aragraph on page 6 which I will read out of.
AD: Its not an issue of money, it is not a difference between the serious and the popular because as I've said, serous theatre is not a popular thing either in the United States or in India, rather it is the difference of approach and attitude that creates a different overall cultural position for theatre by valuing ALL its modes of existence, textual and performative. All the way from community and university theatres to regional repertory theatres and Broadway, American performance is surrounded by a discursive text that consists of print materials, discussion, commentary, and audience outreach (by way of programs, brochures, study guides for students, director's and dramaturg's notes, panels, symposia, talkbacks, etc.)
AD: I have cited a specific example of this approach not to demonstrate the "superiority" of American methods, but because I have a first hand experience of what it takes to make this hapen around one performance with all of the discursive text that you see on the flyer. And so the attached poster graphically represents the critical prising open of performance. And as a professional theatre scholar, this is what I value- the critical prising open of the performance- a process that Indian theatre-in-performance has to begin following in greater measure if it is not to dwindle into an empty spectacle.
AD: The next section is about the unexplored varieties of Criticism. Because there seems to be a fairly limited sense of what 'criticism' is. I think it would not be an exaggeration to say that the dominant forms of theatre criticism that we encounter are what I calll 'occassional' - it is occassional criticism, performance reviews, book reviews, festival reviews, prefaces and introduction to plays- especially those that are translated.
AD: So what I want to focus on in this section is this sort of limited number of- or the limited nature of critical occassions that authors, directors and critics exploit- making Indian theatre a field for unexploored critical possibilities. So here I'm going to pick it up in the second paragraph, on page 7: When these more or less occassional forms of criticism occupy a dominant position, the fielf is full of unexplored critical notes on occassions. Only a handful of major playwrights have written introductions, prefaces or forewords to their own work, or produced manifestos, memoirs and polanical(?) essays. Only a few actors have produced biographies, memoirs or acting manuals. Only a few directors have theorised a full-fledged aesthetical performance. Very few set designers, lighting and sound designers, costume designers and stage managers have been heard from.
AD: And again, one can't compell this kind of work. But its sure wonderful that it appears. ...And similarly only a few theatre crticcs have produced anything beyond performance reviews, book reviews, introductions and random essays. In Indian theatre, authors do not appear to speak regularly with their audiences and readers. And critics do not display any common understanding of what constitiutes a responsible act of criticism. And I point you to the review that Shamik read from 2 days ago as an example of precisely that. And it seems to me that we as readers, as audiences to theatre, we really need to hold our critics to a higher standard than we seem to be doing at the moment.
AD: The mode of criticism that is critique– does become important in this context, because it is a focussed act of criticism, it debates ideas of cultural significance or political significance, as the case may be. Sainath was addressing, himself, to issues of cutlural significance that relate to theatre, and so on. Its interesting that historically the mode of critique has been very important in modern Indian theatre. Urban commercial theatre established itself in the late nineteenth century by critiquing the "vulgarity" of forms such as the Jatra
; the IPTA critiqued colonial theatre in the 1940s- its an absolutely dense rejection of the forms that had been inherited from the colonial period; and the proponents of theatre in the 1950s critiqued the IPTA. And again, the proceedings of the 1956 Drama Seminar are a good example. IPTA was not critiqued, it was simply erased.
AD: There is not one essay in the 1956 compendium on the IPTA and the only way it comes in is when Shanta Gandhi(?) and Balraj Sahani and others who had been associated with the IPTA defended its merits. In more recent decades, the "theatre of roots" movement has critiqued urban realist theatre as a remnant of colonialism, while the adherents of urban realism have critiqued the theatre of roots movement as a form of revivalism. And then I've listed three issues that it seems to me are ready and ripe for a sustained critique. And again I'm just going to mention these quickly...
AD: One is the so-called "abolition" of the plarwright by a growing number of directors who prefer to develop their own scripts for performance, often in collaboration with their actors. And to give you an example, during the NSD and Mahindra festivals, the publicity materials prominently mentioned the directors of plays, but not the playwrights. Of the 10 plays that the Mahindra festival, only 2 had authors who had not also the play's directors. And these 2, if I remember correctly, were Jazz- written by Ramanathan and directed by Etienne Coutinho and Chaarshe (400) Koti Visarbhole written by Makarand Sathe and directed by Mohit Takalkar who are both here. And Delhi has...-I'm saying this because I've heard it- Chetan Datar said to me in December, that Delhi has abolished the playwright. And that is something, I think, that is an issue of concern.
AD: The second is the growing number of a.. of prose narratives of various kinds. These can be mythic narratives, historic narratives, novels, short stories, just things that can be translated onto the stage from other pre-existing narratives. In Delhi there is a theorising of this, under the name of "Kahani ka rang manch
" and the argument is that this is not an adaptation or theatricalisation of the narrative, but a literal staging, which retains the text, structure and narrative of the original. I've seen 2 or 3 examples of this, including the theatricalisation - or you know 'Rang Manch-isation' if I may use that- of Mohan Rakesh's noval Antara, and I have no desire to repeat the experience.
AD: Its happening in growing numbers. .....We need to think about what this is. In my opinion, its a kind of a colonialisation of the stage by prose fiction and we need to ask ourselves if this is an appropriate or effective direction for theatre.
AD: And then thirdly - this I personally have more of a reaction against- the continuing dependence in the urban repertory on translations and adaptations of foreign plays. As the next section argues here, this practice has a historical and ongoing significance in modern Indian theatre. But in the early twenty-first century, the continued preoccupation with Shakespeare, Moliere, Ibsen, Brecht, Miller, Dario Fo et al. is beginning to look like a compulsive derivativeness.
AD: Again, a critique of these practices does not necessarily mean attack or rejection. But they are altering the face of contemporary theatre in profound ways, and we need to initiate a serious conversation about them so that theatre does not change merely by default. Action - everywhere. There's really necessity for action.
AD: Translation, as I have said, in the fifth and last section, it enters this discussion about criticism because it is a critical act in several respects, and has functioned as such in modern Indian theatre for a hundred and fifty years. When you translate something, you're acknowledging its significance both, in the original language, and in the target. And perhaps even more importantly, in the target language. And I think that obviously is one of the theoritical principles behind all of the translation and adaptation of non-Indian plays that we've had in the last hundred and fifty years. It requires skill, on the part of the translator, it requires consistent critical choices relating to meaning, form, tone and texture. And then translation perpetuates the life of a play or a performance. All that is self-evident.
AD: One of the points I want to make about the activity of translation in India, is that it is really our response to all of the theorising about hybridity that in particular, Homi Bhabha - the theorist originally from Bombay, via london, now at Harvard has done in the last 20 years or so. Now I don't know how many of you have encountered - I think in India, in a sense, one is protected from this- but in the Euro-American academy, Gayatri Spivak, Homi Bhabha stand right alongside Edward Said as the 3 most important theorists of post-colonialism. Bhabha has made it is his life's work in a sense, to theorise hybridity as our condition- taking the botanical metaphor of joining 2 things and getting something else which is neither one nor the other- and there is infinite name(?) in his writing on that fact- that its neither one nor the other.
AD: What I would argue in return, is that we are not a culture of hybridity- we are a culture of translation. From the beginning. This is as true in terms of the relation between Sanskrit and modern Indian languages as they begin to merge in the post-classical period- as it is of everything that has gone on in the last hundred and fifty years. What I have from this point on, I'm going to basically read most of the paper.
AD: What it has done, is to engage almost all of us who are writers in more than one language at one time, it could be 2 Indian languages, it could be an Indian language and English, ...it has been a formative process. So let me just read you some of this.
AD: The activity of translation has undergirded the very formation of a print and performance culture in the modern period, since the decisive nineteenth-century cultural encounter between India and the West depended heavily on the "carrying across" of works from one language to another: from European languages (especially English) to the modern Indian languages; from Indian languages (especially Sanskrit) to the European languages- it was a 2-way transaction- that's what orientalism is all about-; from Sanskrit to the modern Indian languages; and from one modern Indian language to another (across a spectrum of about twenty important languages).
AD: Where drama was concerned, this multidirectional traffic highlighted the twin canonical figures of Shakespeare and Kalidasa, and placed the innumerable modern versions of their works at the core of a "national theatre" in the colonised nation. By the late- nineteenth century, the texts for performance in urban Indian theatre included plays in English, European plays in English translation, English and European plays in Indian-language translation, adapted and indigenized versions of Western plays, translations of Sanskrit plays into the modern Indian languages, and new Indian-language plays, performed both in the original language of composition and in translation.
AD: And if you take the totality of it, its a very very impressive cumulation.
AD: In the post-independence period, the translation of older Indian plays and of foreign plays from all languages, cultures, and periods has not only continued but also grown immeasurably; but the translation of new Indian plays into multiple Indian languages has acquired unprecedented momentum and significance. The last five decades have demonstrated that in Indian theatre the prompt recognition of new plays as contemporary classics does not depend so much on publication or performance in the original language of composition (which is ofcourse very significant), as on the rapidity with which the plays are performed and (secondarily) published in other languages.
AD: The process of selection has a vital critical element because it establishes the value of a given play, and keeps it in constant circulation among readers and viewers, creating the layers of textual meaning and stage interpretation that become the measure of its significance. This method of dissemination also generates- and has already generated - a body of nationally circulating texts and performance vehicles that offers more convincing evidence of the existence of a "national theatre" than any other institutional, linguistic, or bureaucratic conception.
AD: In their formal recommendations to the Sangeet Natak Akademi, the participants at the 1956 Drama Seminar had suggested that "there should be a special programme of translations of well-known and stageable plays of the different languages of India into the
regional languages enumerated in the Constitution," and that "these plays should be made available at moderate prices." This program of translations did not materialize, perhaps because it involved sixteen or more languages.
AD: But the nationwide theatre movement of the 1960s, which began the first major transregional initiatives, gave high priority to the translation of important new plays, and succeeded in forging strong connections between the Indian languages within a few years of the event orchestrated by the Akademi.
AD: The movement brought leading playwrights and directors from different languages together through workshops, fellowships, roundtable discussions, and collaborative productions, and one of its important effects was to lead playwrights to translate their own and each other's work, so that major new plays could reach a larger audience of spectators and readers.
AD: Girish Karnad translated Badal Sircar's classic Evam Indrajit into English, and Vijay Tendulkar translated Karnad's Tughlaq and Sircar's Evam Indrajit into Marathi. Since 1972, Karnad has also translated all his own major Kannada plays for publication in English, diversifying his objectives as a translator, and demonstrating the importance of making drama-as-text potentially available to national and international audiences.
AD: The total translation activity of the last five decades now makes up a daunting field, even if we consider only Hindi as the target language. Here I've run away from all my research material so I had time only to look at what has appeared in Hindi and that's table 1, and again, just read the names of the translators- Bhishma Sahni, Kamleshwar, Amrit Rai, Rajendra Yadav, Prenchand, Yashpal, Raghuvir Sahay, Jainendra Kumar, Pratibha Agrawal, Upendranath Ashq, Rangeya Raghav, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Vishnu Prabhakar alongwith all the others. As I've suggested, in part, this is like the who's-who of the Hindi literary world right after independance.
AD: And then there is a code on page 11 which gives you some important translations of foreign plays into the other Indian languages other than Hindi. And the third table is translations of new Indian plays into Hindi. And againm I'm going to take the opportunity here to say what I would like ideally to compile over the next maybe couple of years, is lists- 3 lists- One: Native translations of foreign plays into all of the Indian languages. I can deal with Hindi and then perhaps Marathi, but all of the other languages in a sense...
AD: ..If this information is already available in your language other than Hindi, then please let me know about it. You also have my email address. If you just want to send me this information at any point, by email of the translations of foreign plays into that language...and I think we'll find more or less, that the translators are major literary figures in their native languages. That's one list.
AD: I'm also interested in major translations of Indian plays into other Indian languages, and here again I have limited amounts of information right now. So if there is any information that you wish to pass around, please do so. And the t hird list would be translations of contemporary plays by major playwrights. Kannad(?) Sarkar(?) is one pair, the (?) is another, Tendulkar-Sarkar is a third, and so on. Any exmaples of this kind of relationship between 2 major contemporaries that you know of I 'd be interested in that information.
AD: Turn to page 13 now....Table I is impressive because of the concentration of literary talent: aside from the original authors, the list of translators reads like a "Who's Who" of the Hindi literary world in the post-independence period. Furthermore, although the translation of both foreign and Indian plays has a close link to performance, the published versions display a degree of critical engagement with author and work that is unmatched by plays published in the original Indian languages.
AD: And this was...you know I worked on this for 2 or 3 months right after I arrived in DElhi in June. And if there was a new discovery for me this time, its this. The amount of critical effort that has gone into those translations so that Harivansh Rai Bachchan and Raghuvir Sahay and Rangeya Raghav, they are writing a range of introductions to the plays of Shakespear or whoever that they are translating. I think there is a theory of translation.
AD: Contemporary Indian translation that is waiting to be looked at...and that material that I sort of make sure that I carry it with me. There are annotations, there are explanations, there are glossaries, - a lot more effort has gone into these translations than has happened- than one is used to seeing when original Indian language or English play is published.
AD: Critical material offers insights into theory and practice of translation on such a scale, that ironically, the act of translation rather than original composition emerges as the more significant critcal occassion in contemporary theatre. Table 2 is equally important because it encompasses a partnership between authors, directors, and translators that has vitally shaped contemporary theatre culture. The "post- independence canon" has come into existence - (and notice that the word 'post-independance cannon' are in quotation marks)- has come into existance because a handful of directors made a conscious commitment in the 1960s to concentrate their resources on the production of important new Indian plays, and commissioned translations specifically for the purpose of performance from theatre enthusiasts, associates, and even partners.
AD: The directors' commitment was matched by the obvious dedication of such translators as Vasant Dev, Santvana Nigam, Pratibha Agrawal, Nemichandra Jain, and B. R. Narayan to the task of expanding the audience for new Indian plays. (ANd again you will notice that I am only giving you the examples of translators into Hindi) A comment by Satyadev Dubey about his "obsession with original plays" best sums up this process: "Besides finding in them a lot of things [I have] wanted to say without having to take the trouble of writing them (there we are again) , [I have] had a sense of continuous contemporariness which makes me feel that I am not alienated from society, at least the society which believes in theatre" - That was a quote from Dubey.
AD: Beyond the specifics of translation, multilingualism and circulation in their post-independence forms have had a profound effect on dramatic authorship, theatre theory, and the textual life of drama. You know, translation leads to multilingualism of a second kind- one form of multilingualism is the very existance of 23-24 major languages. The second kind of multilingualism is the exchange between the languages.
AD: Playwrights who conceive of themselves as literary authors write with the anticipation that the original text of a play will soon enter the multilingual economy of translation, performance, and publication. Vijay Tendulkar, Govind Deshpande, Mahesh Elkunchwar, Satish Alekar, Chandrashekhar Kambar, and Mohit Chattopadhyay are among the authors who have collaborated actively with translators to make their plays available in other languages (especially Hindi and English), for performance as well as publication (again, especially in Hindi and English).
AD: As translators of the work of other contemporary playwrights, Tendulkar and Karnad stand apart in their understanding of the importance of transregional routes in theatre, and by rendering his major plays into English, Karnad has applied that understanding to his own work. All these playwrights construct authorship and authority as activities that must extend across languages in order to sustain a national theatre movement in a multilingual society. Similarly, playwrights who function actively as theorists and critics of Indian drama do not limit themselves to their "native" linguistic-dramatic traditions, but aim explicitly at creating a "nationally" viable body of theory and critical thought.
AD: They construct a framework for contemporary Indian drama and theatre in which regional theatrical traditions interact with each other, and are available for use beyond the borders of their languages and provinces. Significantly, although playwrights such as Tendulkar, Elkunchwar, Kambar, Deshpande, and (with some qualifications) Karnad write their plays exclusively in their respective regional languages, much of their criticism appears directly in English.
AD: For both authors and audiences, the total effect of active multilingualism and circulation has thus been to create at least four distinct levels for the dissemination and reception of contemporary Indian plays--the local, the regional, the national, and the international. But multilingualism is a collective activity, another possible casualty of the strategies of insularity and in communication.
AD: Thank you.
The following two Tables offer selective information about the translation of foreign and Indian plays into Hindi, highlighting the significant authors as well as translators.