Four great plays of the tragic playwright
Dr Salam Shantibala Devi
Contd from previous issue
Then this red color
To dream 4
* * * * * * * * *
O! the time is long past
Since I haven’t heard the sweet melodies
Of hills, lakes and rivers,
The crystal clear streams of ravine creens
The playfield where they played the bari music
They have not been long sun
Where I once played diving
In the company of silvery fishes
Today this evening has brought
(Dreams From My Room, P. 59-62)
* * * * * * * * *
O! What do you call it
O! it slips down, it slips down
The sun having sunk behind the western bears
The night sky clad in black gown
Slips down the shy.
My mind, my thought
Darkness has now covered
Why O Darkness
Your ways so evil
Why do you bind me thus gradually ?
O sailor why
So cruel heartedly
Did you deposit me abjectly?
In a corner of life ?
(Mythical Surrender P. 93)
Not only does his dramatic monologues employ a heavy dose of coined words but uses much poetic elements.
His narratives and situation are constructed in poetic fashion. Most of the times his dialogues follow a rhymthmic pattern.
Budha Chingtham uses aesthetic enhancement quite heavily in his dramaturgy highlighting both realistic and antirealist scenes. His most noteworthy characteristics as one of the leading Indian playwrights are found in his techniques where he has converted even mundane local themes into a universal theme and the use of non-realistic dramatic techniques with an overdose of emotion and expression theatrical devices. It has also come to our notice that Budha Chingtham has not discarded the conventional line of dramaturgy in his plays while most of the time making use of anti-realistic techniques especially expressionism, impressionism, theatre of the absurd to name a few while not forgetting to take up the National (Meetei) cultural forms and elements in these plays. On the other hand, most of the time he habitually rejects traditional form of dramatic expression in his plays being a highly experimental dramatist. His plays are interspersed with such scenes where sudden outbursts take place, such scenes where seemingly conventional dramatic situation becomes alien and neurotic divergences take place where reality is discarded. These scenes may be said to be very akin to expressionistic techniques. In fact “expressionism is ultimately an attitude of mind which can emerge at any time” (Expressionism, p. 96)
Thus when a traditional format play is put on the stage this kind of showing the photographic realities is found unable to exhibit deeper mental angst and conflict in the states of mind of the characters at such times, it requires different experimental techniques. Therefore, what Budha Chingtham wants to express in a subjective realm, an expression that is pure and non-artificial coming out of sincere heart at the spur of the moment, unalloyed and bereft of other conscious feelings. He felt enough of this external acting filled with surface reality, a reality of pseudo concerns, therefore he starts looking for a non-realistic expressionistic expression in search of an inner realm of pureness. His dramaturgy is becoming clearer now he takes up subjects based on real happenings, thus dealing with real characters he dramatize them going into the characters’ subjective status that enables him to create a new reality on the stage and this is the main reason of the attention his plays get from the audience.
I had been an enthusiast of Budha Chingtham for the last ten or so years, and for the last three years approximately he had been not bound to his desk and table for writing his plays. Instead first he would act his play himself. I had seen him many times while in such a situation. In fact I had close talks with him on theatre for these ¾ years in the part.
He suggests that the playwright should also become a co-director in the play he had written. The dramatist will not only be ahead of any director or anybody else for that matter. That way he cannot pass over the sequences of his imagination on the stage while theatrical zing the text. There I may quote Diwan Singh Bajeli, a renowned theatre critic in the Hindu newspaper. He wrote.
“Budha Chingtham is a serious Manipuri theatre artist whose works are for the bitterness and anxieties of the people of Manipur who are sandwiched between the forces of insurgency and counter insurgency, victims of mindless violence, the people are waging a long drawn out forceful struggle to have the Amed Forces Special Power Act lifted from the State. Viewed against this background, Budha’s dramatic work assure special contemporary relevance and are a strong protest against the prevailing political system”.
(The Hindu, 22.3.2013)
Today we are living amidst challenges from every side. We are facing tension daily and this kind of mental ailment may be said to be the phenomenon of this land. Thus we find such mentally handicapped people in Budha’s plays frequently. For this reason if we analyze his plays within psycho analytical framework, the findings would be surely rewarding. While writing his plays he seems to be facing not only an imaginary vision but also a sort of mental problem. For instance the protagonist Sanarei of Mythical Surrender and Kusum of A Far Cry appear to be creations of the powers that be at present. These plays show clearly people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in this land. Budha always says that his plays use excessive emotion to strike upon the intellect of the audience. In this we may quote Dr. William Westernman, lecturer Princeton University writing program, who after seeing Mythical Surrender wrote “Mythical Surrender is an emotionally wrenching play about humanity and the response to violence and oppression”. (SE, Feb 23, 2010)
I got the opportunity to go through his various manuscripts at his home. During such study I came across almost two thousand of his scripts. These included stage plays, about fifteen radio plays, three courtyard plays, critical essays, seminar papers, articles short stories and poetry. Of these many were written as a ghost writer. He informed me that there had been many scripts that had been taken by others and some scripts had been assigned to fire. What I wondered most is the way he let his manuscripts be disposed in fire. I fell that this man must be having an impulsive, self destructive behavior.
(To be contd)