Friday, April 30, 2004

Indian Ink - Tom Stoppard

Written in the vein of Postmodernist writing, Tom Stoppard's "Indian Ink " - a quietly elegant and moving drama adapted by the British playwright from an earlier radio play and turned into a modest stage hit in London in 1995 - is yet another artistic attempt to make sense of India, where Stoppard spent many years.

Flora Crewe, an unconventional English poet visits India in 1930. Her sometimes scandalous life is the subject of a biographical inquiry more than 50 years later by one of Stoppard's favourite comic targets, a pedantic academic who has a scholarly talent for misreading Flora's life. The play moves in time and space between India in 1930 and Britain in the 1980s (where Flora's sister now lives), as Stoppard introduces the arduous task of deciphering the past and piecing together a life and an era long gone.

Against a backdrop of colonialists whose civil facade masks racial intolerance and fabled maharajas the play has some dramatically convenient juxtapositions. Stoppard sketches a love story between Flora, and Nirad Das, an Indian painter.
The 1980's scenes present Nirad's son Anish Das, who is a part of the Indian Diaspora in England and now considers England as "home" - he comes to visit Flora's sister and as they put together the missing pieces on Flora's life-story, her would-be biogrpaher is shown following a dead-end trail in India. The play cheekily pokes fun of the pedagogic world, while also show-casing one of the most often used themes of post-modernism : diaspora!

Definitely an interesting play to read - it doesn't offer any challenges to the mind, for sure, but it is the kind of a play that I would like to see staged.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Henrik Ibsen

Finished reading "A Doll's House" and decided I must blog about here's some gyan first :

Ibsenism = The dramatic practice or purpose characteristic of the writings of Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), Norwegian poet and dramatist, whose best-known plays deal with conventional hypocrisies, the story in each play thus developing a definite moral problem.

"A Doll's House"exploded like a bomb into contemporary life…"It pronounced a death sentence on accepted social ethics. For whatever one's opinion of A Doll's House as a play may be, there can be no question of it's startling unconventionality." ('Flashes from the Footlights' Licensed Victuallers' Mirror, June 1889 ). Henrik Ibsen's "A Doll's House" , was unconventional in its themes and in the way in which they were presented. Ibsen questioned contemporary Norwegian society's conventional male and female roles, the morals of marriage and challenged all human beings, particularly females, to strive to be one's self and to be responsible for themselves. The play was obviously far ahead of its times and though Ibsen was never appreciated in 1879 when the play was first staged, he is hailed as one of the Fathers of Moden Drama. The play is truly remarkable in its theme, portrayal of everyday characters, which make it all the more hard-hitting.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

The Namesake

Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning Jhumpa Lahiri, the book is one of the most engrossing books I've read recently. I read the book from start to finish at a speed that I've not read at for quite a while now...I think the last novel that captured my attention in a similar fashion was Doris Lessing's "The Sweetest Dream."

In "The Namesake" Lahiri enriches the themes that made her collection of short stories "Interpreter of Maladies" an international bestseller: the immigrant experience, the clash of cultures, the conflicts of assimilation, and, most poignantly, the tangled ties between generations. I do find the depiction of the diasporic Indians a bit stereotypical but I guess when you are writing about that community you can't help but lean towards stereotypes!

"The Namesake" takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged wedding, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world. Named for a Russian writer by his Indian parents in memory of a catastrophe years before, Gogol Ganguli knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd, antic name. Lahiri brings great empathy to Gogol as he stumbles along the first-generation path, strewn with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs. With penetrating insight, she reveals not only the defining power of the names and expectations bestowed upon us by our parents, but also the means by which we slowly, sometimes painfully, come to define ourselves.