Four great plays of the tragic playwright
Dr Salam Shantibala Devi
Contd from previous issue
Full of Pathos, the letter is heart rending. She beseeches her brother to return home and clean his blood stained hands. A blend of the stylized and realistic mode of production, the most outstanding quality of the production is highly imaginative…”
(The Hindu 29/3/2012)
The play develops with a philosophical turn. The evil tradition of the times, the writer condemns scornfully. The character of the father (Birahari) in the play speaks thus in one of the dialogues –
… The pair of bullocks cry every night. The wheels go on rotating anti-clockwise for that the pair cries every night. This wheel of time does not bring anything good. What he brings us is only bloodshed and violence. It wants to go on rotating in the stream of blood all the time.
(Four Plays of Conflict, P.17)
The writer has taken his position by the ordinary citizen. And he dreams of a common place where there is found no disparity among men where there is no rich nor poor as well as no violence. When the sister is on the verge of losing her mind, a police officer comes forward to comment –
The many fall a victim to the ongoing turbulences, political conspiracies, inter community conflicts and disturbances, social economic clashes, insurgency related activities. Who gets greatly hurt in a conflict zone is none other than the common man”.
(Four Conflict Plays, P. 26)
The play’s production is highly stylized, uses flashback technique, distorted speeches and the movement are a combination of realistic, expressionistic as well as unconventional attitudes. In short Budha calls it “a non-realistic tragic play”. When I asked further about the play he replied “I feel a huge dissatisfaction seeing the conventional realistic tragedies full of cries of laments. The real sorrow in the heart cannot become satisfied with lament only. How should on try to express the ineffable feeling of grief is what my theatre always seeks to express.”
This is what the reality of Budha’s tragedy is. Another one of Budha’s plays that received nomination for the META Best Original Script Category and Best Innovative Sound Design is The Priestess which is yet again another serious tragedy.
It concerns the fate of a couple and their little boy. One night the man was secretly arrested by the security force. When he became untraceable, an old man in her neighbourhood guided her to use her clairvoyant ability to trace her husband. The distressed woman formerly used to be a female shaman and using her long list shamanic powers, she came to know of her husband’s whereabouts. He was found confined inside an army camp being put under third degree method torture.
Strangely the playwright employs supernatural elements in a scientific manner in this poetic construction. The play in essence is highly abstract and may prove hard to be grasped for the common viewer as it verges on “post-modern concept performing art” that uses the concept of installations.
In the course of the play sorrow and suffering has been added to tragedy when her husband was shown murdered followed by the rape that ravaged the female Shaman’s body before she was dumped as garbage in wilderness. Then people started calling her bad names in their ignorance. Finally she met with the Chief Priestess who pitied upon her and gave refuge in the coteries of female shamans. The play closed in a hard to answer riddle like enigma.
Thus all the mentioned four plays of Budha belong to the group of highly serious tragedy. And peculiarly the titles are given in the English language about which I asked him the reason, to which he explained – “It doesn’t mean that I want to neglect my own language. But it is not new that a language that is naturally rich gets richer by inducting other vocabularies. On the other hand I had wanted other viewers who understand English to feel through these plays the heart of the matter that we face today in our land that is filled with untold number of problems. You may consider it my individual desire”.
To conclude, besides these four award winning tragedies I found some other tragedies by him which are not yet published reflecting scene of violence of blood-shed, cruelty to the helpless weak – such cases that have led many to mental depressions in fact a virtual dystopia like state that is our land each one of them constituting a climatic event. The tragedies that the playwright had penned happen to be real life tragedies. From these plays we can construct extraordinary laws of tragedy found in the marginal or fringe areas of the country–tragedy of the periphery, we may call it.
It is Budha’s success that he could bring about a major thematic change in the course of play writing in India. Today we have successfully conveyed the message to the mainland people of how those people living in their own land spend their lives like refugees, facing the fear of imminent arrests and torture through this peripheral nature of tragic drama.
Another remarkable innovation of Budha is the projection of the female protagonist in the land where only women had undertaken major social reforms and changes. He has put under deliberate use unconscious and sub-conscious techniques to put a big social question. His tragic plays had been directly contextualized in his social settings. However he has broken the tradition of realist tragedy, only to be substituted by a tradition of the characteristics of non-realistic tragedy where he has put into use female protagonists within a psychological frame. So, when we read his tragedies it feels like we are viewing a painting of mankind’s tragic literature that had been going on through the past centuries. Budha Chingtham is certainly a multi-faced playwright, Director and Critic who has been crying his heart out for his land and people.