Four great plays of the tragic playwright
Dr Salam Shantibala Devi
Contd from previous issue
It is a new concept of expressing ones’ love for one’s motherland in which the tragedy in devotion to the motherland has been changed into a narrative of happy ending. There is a need to study Budha’s concept of tragedy’ more minutely.
I saw Mythical Surrender in 2011 for the first time during the North East theatre Festival at Hongnemshang theatre which is an affiliate of NT theatre at Changangei Airport Road. I have to understand the play better as the published text is at hand.
The play uses water as a metaphor in different impressionistic sound effects with an elegiac atmosphere running from beginning to end. Budha Chingtham use here different anti-realistic dramatic techniques in this play. He depicts the psyche of the rape victim Sanarei and is able to carry it along with the audience’s sentiments. The rape victim’s emotional status flowers on the stage theatrically carrying the audience in its wake.
After viewing Mythical Surrender, I myself being a woman it not only hurt my mind but also strikes me as a psychological play. Though I had viewed it many years back I can still hear the soulful laments of many a rape victim females inside a war zone and any conflict zone. How did Sanarei fall a victim to a rape? Is pregnancy possible as a consequence? The writer tries to answer these questions in a psychological manner, hidden behind the text in a web of magical words, within the directorial notes.
Third scene, Venue: Cottage on a floating mat of weed:
A full moon night in July. The full moon of the night shines on top of Chaothoi’s head. He was found sitting alone like a thought laden puzzled man gazing out into the distance of the Loktak Lake. A lamp is seen inside the cottage. As the Mud wall of the cottage had not been plastered with mud a man could see the contours of the sleeping Sanarei on her cot. She too comes out unable to sleep any longer. She was almost half clothed only, her wrap lies half railing on her body and on the floor. She stood by her door, looking intently for a moment at the sitting Chaothoi. The yellow coloured wrap slowly slides down off her body and collects on the mud floor. Sanarei goes closer to Chaothoi.
(Mythical Surrender, P80)
This scene finds a group of snake like soldier raping and davaging Sanarei that made her conceive an unwanted child. The writer seems to have studied human science closely and had created this scene subsequently.
What is the meaning that the writer gives to Mythical Surrender; and how does he try to interpret the word ‘rape’ in a conflict zone where a marauding force uses it as a tool to dehumanize the spirit of a vanquished people is clearly shown. While showing the disintegration in human spirit we are reminded how the art of rape has been used in different parts of the world as a weapon to kill the spirit of other vanquished people. Such incidents had taken place in our land not so long ago. O Women, the stories of your suffering is unending. Let us near the heart wrenching story of such a girl who had been tormented cruelly by a group of marauders.
… My daughter refused to obey the order to get undressed. So they ordered her to choose between rape and death. She choose death, so they started to torture her cutting off her breasts one at a time with a knife, then her ears lobes and then they opened her belly … after a time of agony, my daughter breathed her last… I was powerless, I wasn’t able to protect her.
(International Alert 2004, Women’s Bodies at Battleground, Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls During war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, P.35)
This is how Mythical surrender keeps on drawing out and displaying such garish incidents for everybody to see. How did the rape victim Sanarei carry on her life? Budha Chingtham had thus used his power of imagination and poetic vision to create such an unforgettable character in Manipuri theatre.
A Far Cry is another play that had successfully introduced Budha Chingtham in the International theatre scenario besides getting nomination in the Best Original Script and Best Innovative Sound Design Award in the Meta festival. Though other plays had got entries in International Festivals, the play A Far Cry was selected to represent India in the Four Yearly Theatre Olympics International. One of the biggest theatre event in the world.
Luckily I got the opportunity to view the play in the 8th Theatre Olympics in 2018 at the Birla Auditorium in Kolkata where the Festival was First hosted in India. He became the first Theatre Olympian to represent Manipuri playwright in the Theatre Olympics which is a landmark event in India. It continued for fifteen days in seventeen cities of India. The event is regarded on Olympic in the matter of theatre all over the world. It has fourteen juries selected internationally on their merit. As I happened to be in Kolkata for medical check-up I got the golden chance to visit the Theatre Olympics and view the play A Far Cry.
The play is based on a very sentimental theme. A young sister writes to her brother constantly to come back to the free world where she could play with him nagging like a normal child. A few days later she found both her brother and her father bound to an old bullock cart and shot to death. The young girl became eventually demented. A noted theatre critic Diwan Singh Bajeli writes in March 29, 2012 issue of The Hindu on this play like the following –
The thematic core of the play is a letter being written by a sister to her brother who joined the underground movement of insurgency.
(To be contd)