Ashhad Ka Ek Din (One Day in Ashadh) is a debut Hindi play by Mohan Rakesh in 1958 and is considered the first modern Hindi play. The play received a Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for the Best Play in 1959 and has been staged by several prominent directors to critical acclaim.
Ashadh Ka Ek Din contextualizes the modern sensibility despite the fact it is based on the historical theme of Kalidas‘s life, the most celebrated Sanskrit writer of Ujjayani. The play tends to underline modern tendency which evaluates the person‘s competence and ability in terms of money. Kalidas who is an emerging writer is not appreciated in his village simply because of the fact that his writing does not fetch him any material wealth. This is the reason why Ambika, Mallika‘s mother does not approve her daughter ̳s name to be associated with him. It is her desire that her daughter should be married to one who is financially sound and can take proper care of her. But Kalidas is treated in village as vagabond who keeps on moving and looking at the pristine beauty of nature and does nothing to support his maternal uncle Matul. He comes into limelight when his work Ritu Sanghar is appreciated for its literary merits and he is gracefully invited to be the court poet of Ujjayani. Though he is not willing to leave his village for this honour, he is convinced by others to go there and accept the royal wish. He is further convinced that talent fully develops if it is taken care of by some patronage. Nikshep feels that:
“Kalidas is forgetting out of emotion that he will lose everything by disregarding this opportunity. Competence contributes to form one fourth of the personality. Remaining is accomplished by regal honour. Kalidas must go to the capital (Ujjayani)”.
In above lines, modern key to success is reflected. A man succeeds to the fullest if he is well connected. This happens even today that a talented person may not necessarily excel at his own but it is ensured if he has royal patronizing agency to flourish his talent. Vilom who is always critical of Kalidas and Mallika expresses his desire that Kalidas needs to enjoy royal honour. He craftily advises so because he knows that he may be able to wed Mallika only in absence of Kalidas. The other character Matul, maternal uncle of Kalidas, wants Kalidas to proceed to Ujjayani so that he may be benefitted being a relative of Kalidas. He really enjoys the benefit of this connection and gets his house well constructed though the royal assistance of Priyangu Manjari. In modern times, it is generally seen that people establish their political and other connection so that they may reap the benefit of such connections when they require. It is only Mallika who tries to persuade Kalidas to go to Ujjayani so that his talents may fully blossom. She has no vested interest of her own. She loves him for his poetic talents and this is the reason that despite his poverty, she craves to enjoy his company as portrayed in the beginning of the play. Kalidas is also tempted to material well being as he suffered the life of destitution in his childhood. Although he is appointed as a national poet, he accepts the position of a ruler to become rich and to take revenge on those who had humiliated him in his bad days. He admits to Mallika when he comes back from Kashmir as an unsuccessful ruler:
“You were surprised that I was going to take over as a ruler of Kashmir. You might have felt it quite unnatural. But it does not appear unnatural to me. It was a natural reaction of a poverty- stricken life. Possibly it was the mood to take revenge on those who had humiliated and made fun of me some times”.
The characters like Ambika, Matul and Vilom and Kalidas himself appreciate the material success in life as they understand that wealth is essential for happy life. Thus, the playwright has successfully exploited the historical event into modern context.
The play can be also analyzed and discussed in term of Feminist perspective which is the major concern of the critics on the critical portal in modern age. The main protagonist of the play, Mallika comes out to be a strong character who is singularly not tempted by the shining glamour of material success. She is a dynamic character who tries to establish her own identity independently and responds to the call of her inner soul. She is romantically in love with Kalidas, which is apparent when she comes back home, all drenched in rains. Ambika, her mother, does not approve her love for him, as he does take work seriously. She wants to control Mallika‘s activities as traditional mother does but Mallika gracefully tries to explain her about the poetic talents which he has. Whereas Ambika is a traditional mother who is always worried about her daugher‘s marriage with a suitable person, Mallika, on the other hand, is a progressive and modern daughter who wants to exercise her own conscience with regard to marriage and has given herself completely to Kalidas. She tells her mother: “But I told you that there is no need of sending Agnimitra to anywhere. You know that I do not want to marry, then why do you make efforts? You think that I talk unnecessarily”. It is she who is able to convince Kalidas to accept the request of Ujjayani as a poet. She is least bothered about her happiness and sensual pleasure and encourages him to proceed to Ujjayani. She says to Kalidas:
“Can you be away from me if you go there….? Where will you get opportunity to develop your genius in this rural surrounding? Here people do not understand you. They evaluate you on very simple scale”.
He goes to Ujjayani and produces a number of texts. This gives immense happiness to Mallika and she manages to get the copies from traders from Ujjayani. In Second Act, when Kalidas does visit her while going to Kashmir, she feels emotionally hurt but does not have grudge against him. The other female character is Priyangu Manjari, Kalidas‘s wife. While going to Kashmir, she comes to visit the places and persons who are the driving forces of his creatively and quite often he recollects those things while composing his works. She comes to meet Mallika and is surprised to know that Mallika has all copies of Kalidas‘s works. She feels a little bit upset:
“I can understand. I know through him that you are his childhood companion. Your temptation towards his work is natural. He becomes forgetful of everything whenever he talks about the life here. This the reason some time he feel distracted from politics”.
She tries to bait her that she along with her mother should accompany her but she declines to do so. She also does not accept the offer of rehabilitation of her old house. In this respect Ambika and Mallika both are similar and very self – respected as to not accept any offer pathetically given by the queen. The queen wants to orient Kalidas in politics but his natural talent lies in art, and thus he does not succeed in suppressing the rebellion of Kashmir.
The basic difference between Mallika and Priyangu Manjari is that Mallika recognises his natural talent and promotes it at the cost of her happiness; on the other hand, Priyangu Manjari, despite her knowledge that he is interested in creativity, pushes him into politics which he is not equipped with. She feels that Kalidas is a king, and she will enjoy all royal pleasures through him. This is the reason that she goes to Kalidas‘s village to bring everything which Kalidas used to appreciate. She feels that if everything comes there in Kashmir, Kalidas‘s mind will not be deviated and he will focus his full attention in administration.
Thus, it is seen that there are three female characters who have various dimensions. Ambika is a traditional woman who thinks for the well being of her daughter and to restraint her association with Kalidas, which is socially unacceptable. Mallika is the second character who is powerful, energetic, and self – respected and self – reliant. She is loyal and honest in her love towards Kalidas and takes all positive measures to promote his artistic temperament. Priyangu Manjari, the third female character, is very weak and selfish who wants to purchase honour of Mallika and Ambika, which she fails to do. She pressurizes Kalidas to be King but he cannot prove line up and becomes an unsuccessful ruler. If she had promoted artistic temper of Kalidas, she would have commanded our respect.