October 2019 ~ All About English Literature

For Exclusive Notes and Analysis

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Journey of Indian English Drama


Drama is a composite art form. It is mimetic like all other performing arts in literature. It imitates life, particularly reflecting the three unities of time, place and action. “It is designed for representation on the stage by actors who act the parts of the characters of its story, and among whom the narrative and the dialogue are distributed.”

India has a long and fertile history in Drama, starting from Sanskrit plays of Vedic Age. Dramatists of Indian Writing in English have scaled the length and breadth of the experimentation in dramaturgy of India during and after independence. To fathom the depths of Indian Drama in English certain characteristic features are to be kept in mind. Basically, the Indian Writings in English during Modern Age articulate the budding and the already present writers as well as the influence of Existentialism, Globalisation, Surrealism, Dadaism, Magic Realism and the Post Colonial issues. India had been under the colonial shackles for a time period of three hundred years and as a matter of fact the colonial language and culture had cast its direct shadow on the Indian literary venues.

Classical Indian Drama: It’s Origin

Drama in India has had a rich glorious tradition. It begins its journey with the Sanskrit plays. Indian tradition preserved in the Natyasastra. The oldest of the texts of the theory of the drama, claims for the drama divine origin and a close connection with the sacred Vedas themselves. Origin of English drama can be traced to the ancient rules and seasonal festivities of the Vedic Aryans. The most renowned and talented dramatists of the ancient era are Ashwaghosh, Bhasa, Shudraka, Kalidas, Harsha, Bhavabhuti, Visha-khadatta, Bhattanarayana, Murari and Rajeshkhora, who enriched Indian theatre with their words like Madhya-Mavyaayoda, Urubhangam, Karnabharan, Mrichkatikam, Abhigyana Shakuntalam, Malankagnimitram, Uttar Ramacharitam, Mudrarakshasa, Bhagavadajjukam, Mattavilasa etc.

Pre-Independence Indian English Drama:

The Indian English Drama began in the 18th century when British Empire came and strengthened its political power in India. It is started with the publication of Krishna Mohan Banerjee’s The Persecuted in 1813. It is a social play in which the author tries to present the conflict between the East and the West. The real journey of Indian English Drama begins with Michael MadhuSudan Dutt's Is This Called Civilization which appeared on the literary horizon in 1871. Rabindranath Tagore and Sri Aurobindo, the two great sage - poets of India, are the first Indian dramatists in English worth considering. R.N. Tagore wrote primarily in Bengali but almost all his Bengali plays are available to us in English renderings. His prominent plays are Chitra, The Post Office, Sacrifice, Red Oleanders, Chandalika, Muktadhara, Natir Puja and The Mother' Prayer etc.. These plays are firmly rooted in the Indian ethos and ethics in their themes, characters and treatment. Sri Aurobindo’s complete plays are Perseus the Deliverer, Vasavadutta, Radoguna, The Viziers of Bassora and Eric and each of these plays is written in five acts.

Harindranath Chattopadhyaya added a new dimensions to Indian English drama. He sympathizes with the underdogs same like Mulk Raj Anand. His collection of social plays include The Windows, The Parrots, The Santry Lantern, The Coffin and The Evening Lamps.

Post Independence or Post Modern Indian English Drama

D. M. Borgaonkar’s Image-Breakers (1938) is a problem play that aims to break the conventions of caste system, horoscope, dowry, etc. S. Fyzee- Rahamin’s Daughter of Ind (1940) portrays the conflict between love and social barriers, featuring a low-caste girl loving an Englishman. Balwant Gargi’s The Vulture, Mung-Wa, The Fugitive and The Matriarchdealt with themes which are engaging the attention of people everywhere.”

Another dramatic voice on the Indian literary scene that demands attention is that of T.P. Kailasam. He wrote both in English and Kannada. Though Kailasam is regarded as the father of modern Kannada drama, his genius finds its full expression in his English plays such as The Burden (1933), Fulfilment (1933), The Purpose (1944), Karna (1964) and Keechaka (1949).

Bharati Sarabhai is the modern woman playwright during the colonial era of Indian English drama. She has written two plays The Well of the People (1943) and Two Women with some considerable measure of success.

J.M. Lobo Prabhu is the last great name in pre-Independence Indian English drama. He has written over a dozen plays but only Mother of New India: A Play of India Village in three Acts (1944) and Death Abdicates (1945) appear before Independence.

The use of blank verse is flawless and the last play compels us to remind of T.S.Eliot’ s Murder In The Cathedral. Other verse plays of the period include P.A.Krishnaswami’s The Flute of Krishna (1950) M.Krishnamurti’s The Cloth Of Gold (1951). S.D.Rawoot’s Immortal Song. Karm and The Killers (1959) Satya Dev Jaggi’s The Point Of Light (1967) Pritish Nandy’s Rites for a Plebian Salute (1969). P.S. Vasudev’s The Sunflower (1972) etc.

Nissim Ezekiel’s Three Plays (1969) including Nalini: A Comedy, Marriage Poem: A Tragi Comedy and The Sleep Walkers: An Indo-American farce are considered to be a welcome addition to the dramaturgy of Indian English drama.

Girish Karnad in the capacity of writer, director and actor substantially contributed to enrich the tradition of Indian English theatre. His well known plays are Yayati (1961), Tughlaq (1962), Hayvadana (1970), Nagmandala (1972). He borrowed his plots from history, mythology and old legends.

Vijay Tendulkar symbolizes the new awareness and attempts of Indian dramatists of the century to depict the agonies, suffocations and cries of man, focusing on the middle class society. In the plays Silence! The Court Is In Session (1968) and Ghasiram Kotwal (1972), the theme of oppression dominates. Sakharam Binder (1972) is a study in human violence amounted to powerful dramatic statement.

Gurucharan Das (1943- ) is known for his popular play, Larins Sahib (1970). Set in Punjab, it is about the political career of a British Resident in Punjab. Vera Sharma wrote a number of one act plays, including Life is Like That (1997) and Reminiscence (1997) which deal with the plight of women.

Badal Sircar too is a prestigious name in the realm of contemporary theatre. He represents New Theatrical Movement in India. His earlier plays are Evan Inderjit (1962) That Other History (1964) and There Is No End (1971). All these plays are based on political, social, psychological and existential problems.

Post Independence era witnessed the birth of several one act plays. R. Raja Rao’s The Wisest Fool on Earth and Other Plays (1996) is on the theme of homosexuality. T.S. Gill’s Asoka (1983), V.D. Trivedi’s Gandhi: A Play (1983) and Prema Sastri’s Gandhi, Man of the Millions (1987), Gieve Patel’s Princess, Savaksha and Mr. Behram, Dina Mehta,s The Myth Maker (1959) and Brides Are Not for Burning, Uma Parameswaram (1938- )’s Sons Must Die and Other Plays (1998) are some to quote.

The Post Modern era ushered in new changes in the Indian English drama. Mahesh Dattani (1958- ) a playwright of World stature, has added a new feather to the Indian English drama. His plays deal with serious and sensitive issues like communalism, homosexuality, female infanticide, domestic abuse, child sexual abuse, condition of eunuchs in Indian society. His plays include Where There’s a Will, Tara, Bravely Fought the Queen, Final Solutions, Dance like A Man and Thirty Days in September.

Sum up:

Post-Independent Indian Drama in English falls short of the level reached by poetry and fiction in India. There are four reasons for this: i) drama is essentially a composite art involving the playwright, the actors and the audience in a shared experience on the stage-has its own problem of which the other literary forms are free. ii) As Srinivas Iyenger attributes “the failure to the fact that English is not a natural medium of conversation in India.” iii) Lack of living theatre in our country. iv) The Indian English playwrights do not give much importance to the rich and varied Indian dramatic traditions involving the native myth and Indian historical heritage.

In short, Indo-Anglican literature continues to grow and flourish and this despite all the misguided and prejudiced and politically motivated campaign against English as a foreign language, a language which comes in the way of its growth. More Indians are writing in English than ever before, and the Indo-Anglican writer is enjoying a much wider market. Indo-Anglican drama has, indeed, a bright future.


Monday, 21 October 2019

Narayan's "Man Eater of Malgudi" as a Picaresque Novel. or Character Portrait of Vasu in "Man Eater of Malgudi"

Narayan's "Man Eater of Malgudi" as a Picaresque Novel. or Character Portrait of Vasu in "Man Eater of Malgudi"

A picaresque novel deals with the adventures of a rogue or villain. Narayan’s Man Eater of Malgudi has almost all the spices to be a picaresque novel surrounded by the picaro man, Vasu. He has been shown as an adventurous and mysterious wanderer. He pretends to be a person of dual personality. Vasu, the prototype of Bhasmasur wishes the illusion of becoming omnipotent. The placid world of Malgudi is beset with his deeds.

Vasu like Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello, Healthcliffe in Emile Bronte’s Withering Heights, Voss in Patrick White’s Voss “is the prince of darkness and in darkness his activities are to be conducted”. He has been called ‘man-eater’, ‘terrifying’, ‘unreasonable’, ‘man with the dark halo’, ‘cruel’, ‘rakshasha’, ‘arrogant by implication’ and one who laughs ‘diabolically’. Vasu, the person with hammer-fist, is farther attributed as wild animal hunter and a taxidermist.

Literally Vasu is not a man eater as he does not eat the flesh of persons. Being a secluded individual, he rather by constantly troubling and terrorizing the human beings with his demonic strength sucks their peace of mind. He blasts bullies, aggres­sions and hectors. He beats down the huge strong ‘phaelwah’. His Herculean strength makes him prepare to knock the tiger down with his hands and ram the built of his rifle between his jaws if it comes to that when Sen, the poet, Muthu and Dr. Joshi visit his attic to ask not to shoot kumar. He threatens them to pick up and toss them down the stairs. He forcibly snatches the green folder and the list of the donors from Natraj and collects the money from the Malgudians by threatening, keep the money for his own use. Vasu not only kills animals but kills the name and fame of Natraj; “he had destroyed my name, my friendship, and my world”. Vasu’s presence horrifies and fascinates Nataraj.

Vasu is an intellectual giant who gets his M.A in economics, History and English from the Presidency College Madras. He knows laws, talks of Vedanta, of the transmigration of soul and the omnipresence of God. Even Natraj admires vasu – “He worked single handed on all branches of his work. I admired him for it”. The pseudo-philosophy of self-willed and assertive Vasu is revealed in his speech “we are civilized human beings, educated and cultured and it is up to us to prove our superiority to nature. Science conquers nature in a new way every day; why not in creation also? That’s my philosophy, Sir.”  

 Being a dissolute womanizer when he can no longer hunt the jungle animals he takes to indulging in sex. His passion for hunting is transformed into the passion for lascivious lust. He likes to enjoy the inordinate immoral company of as many loose women as possible. That is why he is very much against the institute of marriage. He wants to stick to the Mephistophelian concept of enjoying sex. He freely satisfies his sexual desire with the excessively passionate Rangi and other prostitutes of the town.

Vasu is open- hearted, vivacious and sometimes appears kind hearted too. If he takes Natraj to the Mempi village it is not for any harm but out of his high spirits and playfulness. If Natraj fears that Vasu has kidnapped him, it is Natraj’s nothing but false fear. When Natraj visits the Mempi village and the axle of the bus is broken it is vasu who takes him to Malgudi in his jeep. Rangi praises him as brave and courageous. He fears no one on earth or in heaven. These abilities of Vasu show that though he has some weakness, he cannot be called as man eater.

H. M. Williams in his Indo-Anglian Literature observes Vasu as a mighty force which can hardly be controlled. He is to him, a mighty avalanche or a tempest. Williams believes that Vasu who is a revolutionary force, despises in his utter haughtiness and will, all that is established. He regards Vasu as the embodiment of will. Vasu’s greatest contribution for the Malgudians is that he exposes all the absurdities of Natraj and his friends. Vasu is certainly not Bhasmasur who brings doom on himself. However few critics opine the satanic traits in Vasu. Meenakshi Mukherjee in her book The Twice Born Fiction says: The Man-Eater of Malgudi resorts to the Puranic conflict between Sura and Asura.” K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar too in his Indian Writing in English finds in the Man-Eater an absolute evil- “anti-life, anti-nature, anti-faith.” This theme is implicit in R. K. Narayan himself who cites Vasu as the modern version of a Rakshasa.  

Even though, the death of Vasu is based on the mythology, the death of Vasu due to the mosquitoes- smashing- hands is not convincing. His death cannot be accepted by reason and logic. No one has ever been killed in this way. The death of Vasu is a matter of improbable probability. Vasu is not such vicious as he being projected by other characters; even such a man simply happens as Raju in The Guide. Therefore it is not always convincing to agree with some critics who observe that the man eater of Malgudi is a giant of man, a potent, dangerous bully, a wild threat to the norms of society. What we can only say that Vasu is the dark domain of ours. Crises, catastrophe and resolution of the novel is the outcome of picaro.


R. K. Narayan's "The Man Eater of Malgudi" is an Allegory of Good and Evil. Discuss. or Theme of Love-Hate Relationship. or What is the moral or central idea of the novel?

R. K. Narayan's "The Man Eater of Malgudi" is an Allegory of Good and Evil. Discuss. or Theme of Love-Hate Relationship. or What is the moral or central idea of the novel?
Narayan holds a distinct position in the realm of Anglo-Indian literature. In Man Eater of Malgudi, he depicts the canvas without sounding preachy or cynical. The quiet landscape of Malgudi provides a suitable background for his fiction. Malgudi is a microcosm, this is a world within a world. Meenakshi Mukherjee in her book The Twice Born Fiction says: “The Man-Eater of Malgudi” resorts to the Puranic conflict between Sura and Asura.” K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar too in his Indian Writing in English finds in the Man-Eater an absolute evil- “anti-life, anti-nature, anti-faith.”
                                                                                                                                           The Man-Eater of Malgudi is an allegory of good and evil. The good is represented by Natraj; on the other hand, Vasu is an embodiment of evil. Edwin Gerow, a perceptive analyst of the novel, has pointed out How closely the novel follows the allegorical pattern of Sanskrit literature.”

The Man-eater of Malgudi has a parallel development to an ancient myth projecting a clash between good and evil. The innocent world of Malgudi with her people and surroundings live poles apart from the attic of the press. Natraj and Vasu are symbols of two different sides of life. They represent virtue and vice in their true form respectively. Natraj is too meek to say 'no' to anybody. In the company of Sen, Sastri and the Poet, he leads his life in the press with nothing much to worry about the world. The life around Malgudi and far-off Mempi forest run on its orbit. Taking little care of the outer world they live at peace with themselves. They are true to their environment, their God and their own selves. The appearance of Vasu rejects the order and crunches the innocence and purity of Malgudi. He is a danger to the very existence of life there. Vasu is a taxidermist and he rejoices in the killing. The sportive fauna of the forest became the target of his bullets. He stuffs the dead body and sells them for money.

He is the prince with dark halo. Nothing can survive within his reach. Nature loses its rhythm but finds no way to get rid of this mighty demon. Gifted with immense strength, Vasu bullies and frightens. The whole lot seems to be spineless before the demonic creature. The smoldering anger cannot change into a blaze and Malgudi continues to breathe in-state air coming from dead life. Natraj along with his company imagines of protesting against his ways and wishes.  But these are plans not to be translated into action. They pin their faith in the supremacy of goodness and it is the last hope for them.

On a religious ceremony of Radha-Krishna, Vasu is determined to shoot the temple elephant dead. Keeping aside her loyalty to Vasu, the public woman, Rangi informs Natraj about the heinous scheme of Vasu which turns the festive mood of Malgudi into gloom. In their own ways, some people try to mitigate the Rakshasa or destroy him. All efforts go in vain. The classical myth tells of Bhasmasur destroying himself while dancing at the dictated posture of Mohini. In the similar manner the terrible demon, Vasu struck himself with his hammer-fist in the course of keeping away the flies. The dreadful blow brought his catastrophe.

Natraj and Vasu are contradictory characters. Natraj, no doubt, is the central figure and the action of the novel is viewed through his eyes. It is his point of view that we always get. But he is an unheroic hero, good at heart, but passive and inactive. According to Paul Verghese, “We can compare the good and evil in terms of Vasu and Natraj love hate relationship who show the opposition “between Satva and Rajas”. Vasu is a Faustian character with his virtually insatiable curiosity and thirst for power and knowledge. He holds his master’s degree in history, economics and literature. Natraj, on the other hand is a typical Narayan’s character with non-committal neutrality as his ideal.

The Man-Eater of Malgudi restores normalcy at the end of the novel. The end of Vasu is a poetic justice. In fact, Narayan's novel is a pensive comedy where darkness cannot reign forever. Sunshine has to follow the black shadow of evil. The story is also a moral indicator of the absolute fall of the vanity of power. 


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