Abstract Badal Sircar, an Indian dramatist, is mainly famous for the presentation of his tragic vision of life in his play Evam Indrajit. Sircar reveals his thoughts through the characters of his play. The play contains autobiographical elements and raises a question about the absurdity of man’s life. Man lives his life with great expectations and aspirations without knowing his future. Sometimes his expectations and aspirations become the cause of his predicament but no one can deny that man is always helpless against destiny. Whatever happens to a man is predestined. Sircar concentrates on the theme of absurdity in his play Evam Indrajit. The term ‘Absurd’ denotes uncertainty of man’s life. Sircar’s characters struggle to gain something in life and try to find the meaning of life. At the end they found themselves where they were in the beginning of the play.
“Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
Before we too into the Dust descend;
Dust into Dust, and under Dust to lie
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and–sans End!”
Omar Khyyam (Persian Poet) (www.goodreads.com)
Badal Sircar appeared on the surface of Indian theatre as a playwright who pioneered the concept of the Third Theatre. Although he began his literary career as a theatre actor and then turned into the field of direction and scriptwriting, his versatility was always visible to all. He is generally considered to be a dramatist who brought the concept of absurdity into Bengali theatre, but was only an imposed tag on his ability as an artist; it confined his multifaceted genius within a certain dimension.
The first play that made his appearance feel strongly on the stage was Evam Indrajit in 1963. It proved to be a landmark in the history of modern Indian theatre. This significant contribution of Sircar not only helped his recognition to flourish, but also improved the level of Indian theatre too. The thematic concern of the play Evam Indrajit is “the loneliness of the post-independence urban youth.” in Culcutta. Through this play, he reflects the crisis of the complex situation of Indian middle-class people. Making the young generation the focal point of the play, Sircar depicted their passion as well as frustration in dealing with the imposed circumstances. While moving into the play in depth one comes across various characters, Manasi is a woman character along with Amal, Vimal, Kamal, and Nirmal (Indrajit). All these characters show the complexities of modern life and the worthlessness of their existence.
When Sircar was once questioned about the play Evam Indrajit in an interview that whether he reckon the play as a satire on contemporary politics and its worthlessness, replied to this, that the play is not an attack on politics and he was not aware of the existential philosophy. Though he expressed his not being aware the absurdity and existentialism, the effect of absurdist philosophy is very much felt in his play Evam Indrajit. The play reflects the point of meaninglessness when we come across the line, “nothing worth mentioning ever happens.”(41) The play portrays a very apt picture of the complex condition of the prevalent attitudes and undefined crisis, running through the veins of the middle-class urban youth of Indian society. The play moves around a woman named, Manasi who appears as an inspiration in the life of a playwright, who is struggling strenuously to write a play. The play reflects the inner complexities of the writer who is finding it’s tough to write a play due to the honesty and integrity of his personality. The play beautifully deals with the life of the writer who finds life to be much more fragmentary that is why its transformation into the dramatic form is not possible. He feels that life is less natural and much more mechanical in the chaotic modern time and his attitude reflects the anxiety and agony of the artist who is a keen observer of the critical scenario of modern world life. Throughout the play, the protagonist is reflecting a journey that starts from nothingness and ends up in nothingness- despair. This portrayal of hopelessness is a keynote of the absurdist philosophy.
The absurdity of man’s life in the play
The play deals with the writer’s life and his agony to write a play but the vague feeling and the undefined hopelessness restrict his creativity to enhance itself. He finds himself not able to write as he has nothing to write about. He expresses his agony in the initial part of the play, he says:
What shall I write? Who shall I write about? How many people do I know? And what do I know about them? I know nothing about the suffering masses. Nothing about the toiling peasants. Nothing about the sweating coal miners. Nothing about the snake-charmers, the tribal chieftains, or the boatmen. There is no beauty in the people around me, no splendor no substance. Only the undramatic material. (6)
The expression of the writer reflects his sterile approach toward life. He seems to have less knowledge and experience of the basic reality of life. He is also finding those people about whom he wants to write, undramatic who are sitting in the auditorium. At this point of the play, one can easily witness its closeness to absurdist philosophy and existentialism. The swift twist takes place in the play and out of a sudden the protagonist, the writer invites four persons from the audience named Amal, Vimal, Kamal, and Nirmal but the writer was not agreed with the last name Nirmal. He says: No. It can’t be. You must have another name. You have to have. Tell me truly, what’s your name? (4)
After the element of doubt rose by the writer about the name of the fourth person Nirmal, he finally confesses to having shied away from his real name. He reveals the fact that his real name is not Nirmal but Indrajit, the name of the mythical rebel, Meghnad who defeated Indra. Nirmal says that he called himself Nirmal because he was “scared of unrest. One invites unrest by breaking norms.” (5)
Indrajit appears to be different to the other characters in the story as Amal, Vimal and Kamal have an approach toward life that is considered to be an appreciable way to survive. Such kinds of people are only concerned about their status and comfort in life. They don’t crave the betterment of society or bring a drastic change in society. They are so much self-contained that they never peep into the crisis of the others. Sircar, while critically dealing with the absurdities of existence considers these people to be dead as they reflect the meaningless approach toward life. At the initial point of the play when the writer queries Indrajit about his being dead. Indrajit at this answered very absurdly as he says that he is in doubt whether he is dead or alive. The question that may come to the mind of any reader here is, why the writer is not keen to ask a similar question to the other characters. One of the reasons that will come to the reader’s cognition is that the writer has already reckoned them as no more alive. The part of the interaction that took place here in the play shows the mastery of the handling of the technique of the dramatist. Such kind of innovative approach helps the Indian playwrights to re-structure the already set norms of dramatic technique. The play unfolds all the characters’ lives and psychologies with the help of the interactions that take place among them.
Sircar through the portrayal of such characters against the world which is full of inhumanity focuses on the worthlessness of human existence. With help of these characters, Sircar defines a new aspect within the framework of the play, in which he not only focuses on the outer world of the characters but also their internal conflicts are also portrayed in the play.
As an apt instance of postmodern Indian drama Evam Indrajit depicts the dilemma of the middle-class individual who is suffering for sustainable survival. The very title could be taken into consideration to reflect the fact that, how an individual is trapped in a chaotic situation. The title, Evam Indrajit is read as ‘And Indrajit’ in English, this attachment of the conjunction ‘And’ shows the relation of an individual to society. While analyzing the title one can also understand that this relationship of the individual with society is not a natural but an imposed attachment. Indrajit is shown about society this also reflects the fact that he hasn’t got his individuality as a human.
Sircar deliberately portrays the character like Indrajit to show the opposite nature of modern individuals living in an age which is full of self-centered nature. In comparison to the other characters, Indrajit is shown very differently. His approach toward life is entirely different from the pseudo-modern people. This is quite evident when he is seen resisting any part of exploitation. At one point in the play, the prevalent corruption of modern society becomes very much evident when all of them including Indrajit have to face an interview, though they all are aware of the fact that the recruitment process is all fake and the interviewers have already selected the candidate. This incident depicts the crisis of the youth of modern India where power matters more than talent.
The play also emphasizes a very vital aspect of the orthodox Indian middle-class society through the relationship of Indrajit and Manasi. Their relationship is not only questioned by the so-called ethical society but at the same time, they also question the orthodox nature of the society. Their relationship lacks ethics as she is his cousin. Indrajit showed an anti-traditional way to resolve the issue but his daring resistance could not sustain longer as Manasi didn’t want to interrupt the norms established by the society.
The portrayal of Indrajit’s character reflects the middle-class individual trapped in the chaotic circumstances of the modern world. He assumes the name ‘Nirmal’ so the existing norms of the society would not be disturbed. His other name ‘Indrajit’ connects him with mythology. According to Ramayana, Indrajit was Ravan’s son who used a covering of clouds to hide himself so that nobody can recognize him and this was the only reason why he was called Meghnad. Indrajit though didn’t want to go against the established norms yet he has a sense of superior knowledge of existence. This becomes evident when he says to Manasi: “If I hadn’t tasted the fruit of knowledge I could have gone on living in his paradise of your blessed society of rules. This statement shows that Indrajit realizes the futility of his knowledge. (23)
The end of the play questions the contemporary situation in which the modern individual’s life is confined within a fixed dimension. Life appears to be more mechanical than natural. Sircar here through this play endeavors to suggest that even in such kind of situation there are people who can attempt to come out of such type of chaotic situation. The deliberate portrayal of characters like Indrajit and the Writer reflects the daring tendencies against the set norms of society.
- Sircar, Badal. Evam Indrajit, Trans. Girish Karnad. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. 1975. Print.
- Jain, Nemichandra. Indian Theatre: Tradition, Continuity and Change. New Delhi: National School of Drama, 2012. Print.
- Naik, M.K.. Perspectives on Indian Drama in English. Madras: Oxford University Press, 1977. Print.
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