Beyond the Hindu Nationalist Frames: Investigating the Inception of a New Language of Theatre in Rabindranath Tagore’s play Sarodtsav

Speaker: Rajdeep Konar
Research Scholar, School of Arts and Aesthetics
Venue:  Committee Room, Central Library, JNU
Date and Time: 6th February 2016 (Saturday), 4:00 pm
As theatre and performance studies scholar Sudipto Chatterjee would rightly argue in his work The Colonial Staged: Theatre in Colonial Calcutta, the Hindu past both in its historical and mythological dimensions, had become a customary presence in the Bengali theatre of late 19 th and early 20 th Century. Both, the commercial theatre as well as the parallel theatre that existed at elite houses like Jorashanko Thakurbari were drawing on the Hindu past, be it via its historical figures or mythological narratives. This practice was feeding into the conservative Hindu Spiritual­Nationalist project of the period as elaborated by Partha Chatterjee in his The Nation and Its Fragments. In his earlier plays written and performed at Jorashanko, Rabindranath Tagore too, was often found to draw from the reservoir of cultural icons of the Hindu past, un­problematically. However, a distinct change in the nature of his treatment of the past can be perceived in the second set of his plays written after he arrived at Santiniketan. The two phases are separated by a time of ten years (1897­1908) ­ the last play of the first set being Baikunther Khata (1897) and the first play of the second set being Sarodotsav (1908). Sarodotsav written and designed to be performed in form of an Utsav or festive­play is based on a loose quasi­mythical structure. Tagore however chooses to destabilise these mythological signifiers both in the play text and the performances. He puts the mythical past constantly into play in an almost Bakhtinian spirit of revelry and thereby breaking it and rewriting it to give shape to a new language of theatre. In this short essay I would like to analyse the play Sarodotsav in its text as well performance to revisit this point of inception and delineate its modalities.