Badal Sircar’s Contribution to Indian Modern Theatre

In order to understand his huge contribution to Indian Drama and the Theatre one has to understand his prolific contribution as a whole. Sircar, initially, wrote few comedies such as -Solution X (1956), Baropisima (The Elder Aunt, 1959), Sanibar (Saturday, 1959), Ram Shyam Jadu (Tom Dick Harry, 1961), Ballabhpurer Rupkatha (The Fairy Tale of Ballabhpur1963) and many other.

Sircar believed that his roles as playwright, director and actor with precision was of significance. He said, “I wrote plays to perform them. I am a theatre person that’s all.” His scripts and radical use of theory surpassed the contemporary dramatists. Badal Sircar’s Omniscient commitment to the Theatre of social change after independence especially during the 1960s. The decade witnessed formation of art in many parts of the world including India. Plays were performed throughout the country in various regional languages. Indian drama, however, got nationally recognised from one region to another. Badal Sircar, of course, made a major contribution to the Indian Theatre.

At the beginning of his career Badal Sircar wrote pure comedies of local Bengali during1950s and 1960s. He came into limelight in 1965 with his seminal work EbongIndrajit. The play showed Sircar’s rebellious beginning in the world of theatre. He never experimented for the sake of experiments. His plays explored the contemporary ruling classes and the exploitation of masses but with the positive remark. At the end of the play, Badal Sircar provided a concrete vision, an optimistic tone for better future. The theme of the play is a writer’s search for the subject of his play. The play depicted a story of a man who was torn between his mother and his love Manasi. He looked for inspiration from them but failed he could not get married with Manasi and had to marry the one whom he did not love. When the play was performed for the first time it was a big hit, undoubtedly, accepted as a hallmark in Indian dramatic history. The play highlighted the anxiety, angst, dilemma, complexity and anxiousness of the Indian educated middle-class man. The play can be seen as an existentialist play based on Albert Camus and Samuel Beckett’s Theatre of Absurd.

The play EbongIndrajit proved significant as Badal Sircar through it did away with contemporary traditional, conservative, naturalist conventions which have tied down the Indian Theatre. Badal Sircar gave up contemporary set conventions, montage of past and present, and introduced fragmentary scenes, with experiments with the language. Sircar also rejected the conventional features of drama such as ‘unity of action’, ‘unity of time’ and so on. Another feature of his play is his extensive and absolutely relevant use of poetry and wry humour.

One of the most modern leading Marathi playwrights and a critic G. P. Deshpande wrote about Badal Sircar’s innovation in the theatre. The critic said, “Badal Sircar’s Bangla is radically different from the pre-Sircar Theatre speech in Bangla that it came close to actual speech is not its only achievement, the economy of words was unknown to several Theatre traditions in India.”

The play EbongIndrajit was an instant success on stage. The play was translated in many languages including Hindi, English, Marathi, Kannada, Gujarati etc. The play was performed in various parts of India. During 1964 to 1967, Sircar wrote many plays which firmly established him as a leading contemporary playwright in Indian Theatre.

Sircar’s plays like BaakiItihas (The Other History) published in 1964, and Pagla Ghoda (Mad Horse) published in 1969, were the main plays based on the theme of existentialism. The play BaakiItihas projected the story of a man who killed himself because of the burden of that ‘other history’. In fact, it killed almost all human beings but no one talked about it directly. Sircar’s play very relevantly shouldered the responsibility on all the human beings. The play Pagla Ghoda centralises on the theme of the four men at graveyard watching the cremation of a girl who has committed suicide. The play unfolded each of their lives through memories and showed how these characters were responsible directly or indirectly for the girl’s suicide.

Sircar’s plays got widespread publications and high-profile productions. Badal Sircar got widespread popularity and his name became indispensable in the Indian Modern Theatre. In spite of popularity and fame, Badal Sircar was not happy with the kind of experiments he was doing in Indian theatre. Richard Schechner accurately captured this dissatisfaction. The critic wrote, “Badal knew that the modern Theatre of psychology, drama, the spoken words, the proscenium stage, the box set, and the spectator, audience was dead. Worse, it was rotting.” (1972)

This quote depicted Sircar’s dissatisfaction with the contemporary Theatre. He rejected First Theatre that is Folk Theatre for its conservative ideologies and the rigid, redundant monotonous themes. He criticised the second theatre for its glorification of the rural India. He also denounced Proscenium Theatre which imported European especially Britishers’ trends in the Theatre. Sircar did not accept these prominent theatres in India he wanted to bring innovations which will help to project modern man’s life on Indian Theatre.

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