Saturday, 8 August 2015

Foundational elements of sa.nskR^ita nATaka-s - part I

In order to correctly understand and evaluate the creativity of dramatist bhavabhUti, it will be pertinent to have a panoramic view of those foundational elements of dramatics, whose dominion is present in every process of the creation of Indian nATya-s. Here we will not investigate those theories which directly or indirectly help in the aesthetic presentation of the Indian dramas; elaboration of such theories, and study of bhavabhUti in the light of them, will be done independently in a separate section. Here we wish to present the summary of those thoughts and ideas of the Indian way of life, in the light of which the lakShaNa-s of a nATya-s are built upon. Every nation has some peculiarities with regards to its geographic location, the thoughts of its people, their approach to life—one can see, more or less, the effect of all these things in a nation's literature and art. No siddhAnta of art or literature comes filtered from heavens—on the surface, it is a result of refinement of the specific forms and tendencies of arts and literature, but ultimately it is related to the way of life and thought process of that specific nation. It is that thought process and the jIvanadarshana which manifests itself in the many different forms of the art and literature of a nation. These two inspirational elements are again outcomes of any nation's Atmika and laukika struggles. The prayoga-s, which have lasted  for centuries to establish the social and cultural life of India—realistically, such prayoga-s happen in all ages—and due to which the revolutions which developed in the mAnasa of the people, acquired the form of specific traditions over the course of time. Contemporary criticism of bhavabhUti, who is an epitome of the Indian dramatic literature, will have to be done in the light of these traditions; otherwise, either we will not be able to correctly evaluate him or even after evaluation, we will fail to appreciate the AtmA of his works.

Modern critics, especially Western critics, have generally not understood the deep and wide form and spirit of sa.nskR^ita dramas, and have published them with distorted interpretations. Such critics are never tired of praising the moving poetic beauty attributed to lively and illustrious imagination, but also don't hesitate in lambasting the life and its various manifestations as imagined by the Indian dramatists. In their view, the Indian dramas are exaggerated forms of the idealized emotions, which are away from the harsh realities of life. They consider the flaccid act, traditional and inseparable joyfulness and strong attachment towards invoking the upajIvya purANa-s as the primary signs of drama's decadence. It will be appropriate to discuss as to what extent are these doubts and accusations valid, and what is the value of Indian dramatists' view on this. Here we can not say that there is no grey patch in the glowing  achievements of Indian dramas, but this much can be said unequivocally that such connoisseurs of nATya have not attempted to correctly understand the Indian view of drama—otherwise, these accusations wouldn't have materialized, 

The first thing which comes up in this context is that the analysis of Indian dramas, done by Oriental literary critics—who are immersed in Western nATyashAstrI-s and their lakShaNa-s of drama—is in the light of Western theories only; in their view, whatever has been said by the famous Greek philosopher Aristotle, in his world renowned Peri Poetikes, is the measure of a drama. It is only natural for such critics that they fall aside from the Indian vision of the structure and creation of dR^ishya kAvya-s, and distort their coherent form by trying to evaluate with the help of their loaned theories. They forget that the Indian nATya-s have had a distinct paramparA which is an outcome of a totally different environment. This paramparA has largely been isolated from the external world—even when there was a contact, it was after it had already crystallized into a swadeshI rUpa. Thus not only is its spirit purely Indian, the core principles of its form and organization are also Indian. To view them from a Western lens simply means doing injustice to them and depraving them of their spirit. Even a vidavAna like Dr. A.B. Keith, who is a wise scholar of sa.nskR^ita literature and reputed researcher of its many branches, generally makes the mistake of looking at sa.nskR^ita dramas from European lens. As a result, at many places he considers even the achievements of Indian dramas as failures, and begins to see one flaw after another. In the words of the sympathetic critic of Indian nATya-s shrI Henry. W. Wales, 
Dr. Keith has entered into Indian drama and poetry with an analytical approach but emotionless heart. Some of it is due to him being bound by Britsh mannerism, but most of it is due to his dogmatic view of aesthetics due to which he sees the pinnacle of dramatics in the theories of Aristotle and the ideals of a serious drama in Greek tragedies.

We see the result of this view in his examination of meghadUtam where he mistakes meghadUtam to be a mournful poem, and is then seen trying to prove its mourning inferior in comparison to Maria Stuart by Friedrich Schiller. Where is the comparison between the lament ridden emotional grounding of Maria Stuart and the shrR^ingAra of two separated lovers? What was the need of juxtaposing the two? All the emotions arising out of the heart of the separated yakSha nurture rati, and not grief—any student of Indian poetics can very easily understand this. In relation to the sanskrit dramas too, while Dr. Keith displays his analytical ability in absorbing the essence, at many places his view on drama is prejudiced and it reeks of unfamiliarity with the core of Indian theories. There are other people like Dr. Keith who can be seen looking for Greek tragedy or comedy in Indian nATya-s; some have satisfied themselves by saying that one does not need to put much effort in order to transform serious dramas like mR^ichChakaTika and uttararAmacharita in tragedies; by changing the climax and slightly modifying the scenes, these dramas will become tragedies in true sense. Our request to such critics will only be that they should to try to introduce themselves to the Indian jIvanadarshana at the core of these dramas. It is right that India did not produce tragedies like Greek, but this does not mean that the sukhAnta Indian dramas are inferior or due to their joyful nature there is a lack of dramatics in them. If India has not produced Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles, then Greece has also not given bhAsa, shudraka, kAlidAsa, bhavabhUti and vishAkhadatta. It is as futile and pointless to look out for the elements of tragedy in India as trying to search for an image of the happy ending Indian nATaka-s in Greece. Both have their unique domains, narrative, rIti, sculpture and high points. If Greece has made the tense emotional states of the mental sphere and insurmountable weaknesses of life as the basis of its dramas, India accepted the dIpaka of life which emanates the bright warm rays of its simple, quiet smile, and lights unwaveringly amid the stormy struggles of life. 

In India poetry is divided in two parts –dR^ishya and shravya. Which means nAtya independent of kAvya doesn't exist; it is a refined form of kAvya, or its ultimate form is expressed as a drama'नाटकान्तं कवित्वम'. This is the reason why in the natural flow of kAvya, the reflection of all those tendencies and stylistic and emotional innovation, which developed and dissolved over time, can be seen in both these forms of poetry. Call it the impact of the yuga of kAlidAsa or of his own genius, we can see the emotional and stylistic simplicity, clarity and grace in both his visual and aural forms of kAvya. In the succeeding yuga-s when the weight of ala.nkAra-s increased on kAvya-s, and the language became more and more artificial, due to deliberately complicated writing attributed to grammatical and other reasons, the symptoms of these tendencies appeared in dramas too. We do not have any aural form of bhavabhUti-s kAvya, but it is clear by the examination of poems of his contemporary poets as to how sa.nskR^ita kavitA digressed from kAlidAsIya method, and submitted to the stylistic miracles. bhavabhUti's nATya, despite trying to avoid, could not save itself from these effects of that milieu and this was natural. In this way, from the beginning to the end, no kavi of sa.nskR^ita viewed nATaka-s separate from the kAvya stream of sa.nskR^ita, and neither tried to give them a wholly independent existence. Like India, Greece too considered dramas as a branch of kAvya. This is also the basic difference between a mahAkAvya and a nATaka which Aristotles' kAvya-shAstra acceptsthat while the narration in former is via imitation,  a kavi may present all his characters as living and moving in the latter. The kAvyashAstrI-s of India never admitted such imitation in the field of aural kAvya. Yes, in the field of dramas imitation was mAnya, but even here it is in relation to the naTakarma and not kavikarma—kavi's genius is causal, his kAvya is karaNa and not anukaraNa.

It is clear from the above examination that whatever may be the difference of opinion between the Indian and Greek AchArya-s, this conclusionthat the spirit of nATya and kAvya is same, whatever may reflect in their formspoints to their unity. We find the wisdom of world renowned nATakakAra Shakespeare, when his characters, at some point of their act, express their inner emotions in poetic language. The nATyachetanA of kAlidAsa and bhavabhUti is of exactly the same nature—the distinguished parts of their dramas are naturally transformed rUpa-s of their poetic wisdom. The command over rasa-s of a kavi in mahAkAvya-s, khaNDakAvya-s, gItikAvya-s and gadyakAvya-s is beyond doubt, but when the same kavitA is played in a completely dramatic environment on the stage, then its ability to move increases manifold. The reason for this is that in shravya kAvya the streams of rasa drench our heart by the way of imagination, while in dR^ishya kAvya, they become a subject of our eyes, and tied up by the act of drama, they assume a concrete form and touch our antaHkaraNa. This is the reason why visual kAvya is considered better than aural kAvya. Not only have the Indian AchArya-s considered dramas as superior among all forms of kAvya-s, but Aristotle also has clearly indicated this, whenever he has compared the elements of mahAkAvya-s and tragedies. 

For the Indian dramatists, the kAvya dharma of nATaka-s is the highest form of kavi karma—they protect this dharma even at the cost of the so called act. These dramas, when looked at from Western lens, seem to be lacking dramatic elements, but they are replete with poetic components. Yes, even such poetic components of dramas are limited by the boundaries of stage and are inseparable parts of the emotional ride of drama. This is the reason why there is some fundamental difference between the brilliance of kavi-s who create great gItikAvya-s and mahAkAvya-s, and those of great dramatists. It is one thing to write a brilliant poem and another to write an outstanding drama—it is not necessary that a kavi well-versed in writing great epics, will display equal skill in composing drama. In brief, compared to pure kAvya, nATakiya kAvya is a result of a greater awakening of creativity. In this, we find all features of aural kAvya woven together; in addition, it also has some specialties of the high points which are not found outside nATaka-s. Thus, while studying these dramas neither can one avoid the inevitable components of kAvya-s, nor can this element be evaluated via any other methodology of a non-Indian nATyashAstra. The common points of the nATaka-s of the East and the West, may actually be called exceptions, or they are representatives of those stages of the process of creation, in which the writers of every nation cross the boundaries of space and time, and equally express the universal emotions. In the aforementioned two types of dramas, their points of differences are their original elements which smell of the fragrance of the soil of those respective nations and reflect their literary traditions. For any healthy samAlochaka, it is necessary that he should neither see a particular nATya parampAra from the lens of another one, nor assign extraordinary importance to above noted exceptions. 

-translated from 'bhavabhUti aur unakI nATya-kalA' by shrI ayodhyA prasAda si.nha 

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