Journal article Open Access

The Forgotten Playwright: Ramanarayan Tarkaratna

Nirban Nandy

Abstract

            Ramanarayan Tarkaratna (1822- 1886) was a predecessor of the great figure of Bangla as well as of Indian literature(s) Michael Madhusudan Dutt; though nearly forgotten at present, once Ramanarayan was an eminent and prominent personality of the Bangla theatrical space. I would like to consider him as the guiding figure of realistic poetics of Bangla theatre. In 1854, his play Kulinkulasarbaswa dawned on the new age of Bangla theatre. The play is the first original Bangla play to be staged; it also has the merit of being the first-ever original Bangla play dealing with the serious social evils such as Kulin system of the Bengal Brahminism enforced by King Ballala Sena of the Sena Dynasty, and also polygamous ventures undertaken by Brahmin males. With these primary problems at stake, the play also deals with related issues such as education for women, women and society, and marriage. The composition and enactment of the play, Kulinkulasarbaswa, successfully began a new theatrical movement with a progressive outlook and inclusive nature. Ramanarayan, as a playwright, stands as the bridge between the olden forms of Sanskrit drama, and various folk practices (like jatra, palagan, etc) and the youthful arrival of the western theatrical practices, aesthetics and dramaturgy. Not only as a dramatist, but also on the merit of being a person of progressive mentality has Ramanarayan chosen to stand with the progressive side of the then Bengal intelligentsia including Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, Madanmohan Tarkalankar, et al. His plays, including his magnum opus Kulinkulasarbaswa and Nabanataka, advocate progressive consciousness and warm welcome towards the arrival of the new. The paper aims at the reading and analysis of the plays by Ramanarayan Tarkaratna, with special focus upon his masterpiece Kulinkulasarbaswa to trace the socio-literary changes occurring in the 19th century; the entrance of new consciousness; and the quest and establishment of a new identity.          

 

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