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H S Shivaprakash
Tuesday , May 22, 2012

The evolution of modern Indian theatre

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Indian theatre has an unbroken history of over two thousand years. Almost contemporaneous with Aristotle's poetics, ancient India produced an encyclopaedic manual on theatre called Natyashastra ascribed to Bharata, which became the basis Indian performances genres for centuries to come. This means that there already a rich tradition of performance practice long before such a work appeared. The aesthetic theory of rasa briefly but cogently expounded in NS influenced Indian aesthetic theory and practice for more than a millennium. The first millennium was also characterized by the great harvest of Sanskrit drama by pre-eminent play-wrights like Bhasa, Kalidasa, Shudraka, Vishakadatta, Bhavabhuti and Harsha. This body of works compares in its range and power with the dramatic output of other rich theatre traditions of the world ancient Greek theatre and Elizabethan theatre. The glory of ancient Sanskrit drama ended with the first millennium. The medieval period witnessed the emergence of....

Monday , April 30, 2012

Contemporary Indian literatures

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In spite of having an uninterrupted history of 200 years, Indian literatures, written in 22 officially recognized major languages, countless tribal languages and in foreign languages like Persian, English, French and Portuguese, the many-faceted literary output of India constitutes one of the richest achievements of mankind in the world. A huge body of written literatures is complimented by a huger body of oral texts still being produced in tribal languages of the sub-continent. Indian writings in every genre of creative writing are flourishing and making new breakthroughs. It was during the anti-colonial struggle that modern Indian literatures came of age. Indians then started looking at themselves and the rest of the world with their eyes chastened by colonial education. In order to keep pace with the other developed literatures of the world and to enrich our literary scene with Western influences, they created new genres of literature unknown to....

Tuesday , March 20, 2012

Shifting current

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'Congrats! Two years' research has revealed to me one thing. It is a piece of wonderful news for you. Your country along with your neighbor China will become a superpower if the present growth trend continues round the world, which I am sure it will. I expect the two super powers will then make up 80 per cent of the world's GNP whereas North America and Europe put together will only contribute less that 20 per cent,' said a learned professor of Economics, whom I ran into when I went to School of Economics and Law in Berlin as I had been invited there to give talk. Probably the learned professor expected me to be thrilled at this optimistic prognosis. Finding me neither delighted nor impressed by the revelation, he asked me whether or not I liked it. I could not give him a straight answer. I told him....

Thursday , February 16, 2012

Loss of home

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Because the trend of human migration has received a fillip in recent times, the problems of diaspora have begun to loom large the world over. Governments, particularly of the countries of the North, where immigrants make up a huge number, are taking steps to see that diasporic communities participate in national growth without feeling alen or losing their own specific cultural moorings. Developments in North America, particularly in Canada indicate clearly that the South Asian diaspora has become a major player in different walks of life even outdoing Whites in some areas.They have also begun to occupy high public offices in West Europe, North America and Australia. Arts, films, theatres and literature scenario of the diaspora represent a major chunk in the emerging cultural scenario in these lands. Diasporic Studies now have a pride of place in subjects taught in universities. Though diaspora is a....

Thursday , February 02, 2012

Like a caged bird in captivity…

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These were the words ringing in my ears while the whole atmosphere of Jaipur Literary Festival was reverberating with one name-Salman Rushdie. Will he come or won't he? What is the government doing? Why are not the organizers doing something to get him here? What will happen to the writer's freedom of expression? Such were the questions that filled the air. Though there were so many sessions in the festival in which a lot of intriguing issues were being debated animatedly, the name of one author appeared to be much more preponderant. The media was doing everything to exaggerate the importance of Rushdie's participation. Said the famous Srilankan Tamil poet Cheran, an exile from his motherland living in Canada for several decades: 'There are so many of us thrown out of our homelands after a close encounter with death. Why should this man's problem....

Monday , January 09, 2012

When seasons slow down

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The change of seasons has been one of the most universal means for mankind to recognise order in nature and patterning their own lives in accordance with it. Heraclitus, the ancient Ionian philosopher, characterized nature in a paradox: 'Change is the only unchanging reality' - an observation echoed in his great contemporary in India, Lord Buddha who said: Sabbe dhamma anichcha (All objects are impermanent). However, the cycle of seasons, like the day-and-night cycle, is perceived as conforming an unchanging pattern: individuals come and go but the cycles of birth and death persist as do the cycles of seasons or that of sunrise and sunset or waxing and waning of the moon. The Sanskrit word for season, rtu, derives from rta meaning unchanging cosmic order. Thus the cycles of seasons has been a chilling reminder of death and evanescence and a reassurance of hope and renewal. As Shelly....

Thursday , December 22, 2011

Language, the basis of unity and conflict

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Language, as one of the most pre-eminent expressions of human civilisation, has always been the source of unity and conflict in human history. There have been times when the unity of diverse peoples was imposed by existing forms of tyranny as in the case of Roman Civilisation. Equally numerous are the cases when language question figured prominently as a means of self-assertion as exemplified by the emergence of Bangladeshi and Ukrainian nationalism in the recent past. At first sight, it appears as though nations and communities which are not broken up with the narrow walls of language have an advantage over those which boast of their rich diversity. The most technologically advanced countries in the world today - in North America, Western Europe or Japan and China - have for the most part a single language as a means of communication among their inhabitants. Though some or....

Saturday , December 03, 2011

The streams of South Indian cinema

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The way different regions of South India influenced and cross-fertilized each others arts and culture is one of the most fascinating aspects of our history. But did the same kind of relationship between them continue into the modern era? In the modern period, all our regions became part of the rest of the world due to the acceleration of processes of internationalization resulting from the growth of world-unifying factors like the emergence of print media and increased means of communication. We could now talk not only to our neighbors but also to our far-off brethren. The advent of electronic technology further intensified exchanges across oceans and continents. Ideas and practices, images and symbols, fashions and cuisines can now travel as rapidly as they are believed to do in telepathic communication. A new trend has set in culture. Influential voices from far away are listened to far better than those of....

Monday , November 14, 2011

Dynamics of pre-modern South Indian cultures

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The history of pre-modern South Indian culture has a dynamics based not entirely on 'affairs of kings or splendors of fortune' or just on mechanical acts of giving and taking. Further, it is perhaps difficult for us now living in more or less well-defined borders of linguistic states at times disturbed by border disputes or demands for separate statehood how much more conflict-ridden the socio-political backdrop was in the past except during the brief periods of stable political formations. Neither were there one-to-one correspondences between region and language. Though the domain of ancient Tamil culture was identified with the region of Tamizhagam located between Tirupati in the north and Kumarittivu in the south, ancient Tamil poetry was also enriched by the talents of poets from outside the Tamil-speaking regions-from Erumaiyoor(present-day Mysore) or from Koshara (present-day Goa) then under rule of Tamil kings. Similarly, the Kannada land....

Monday , October 31, 2011

Currents and cross-currents of South Indian cultures

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'Unity in Diversity' - the term was coined by Jawaharlal Nehru and later used by the eminent historian D D Kosambi to refer to the complex relationships among diverse regional cultures of India. Can we invoke the same expression to describe the complex relationships between different regional/linguistic cultures of India? Regional cultures of the sub-continent are as diverse as their languages. It is true that we do find some common strands, but it makes better sense to talk about unities rather than unity. However, even this improved phase does not indicate the mobility and dynamics of culture. For regional cultures always strive to become trans-regional like languages and religions. So it makes better sense to talk about them through the metaphor of currents and cross currents. Even one considers the sub-continent as a whole, interdependence among different regions has been its hall-mark. In the first millennium, the current of....


More about H S Shivaprakash

Prof H S Shivaprakash is an acclaimed English professor and writer. He is currently working as the Director, Tagore Centre, Berlin at Indian Embassy in Germany. He is also heading India's cultural mission in Germany. He was the Dean, Department of Arts and Aesthetics Studies at the JNU, Delhi. He was also the Editor of Kendra Sahithya Academy journal ' Indian Literature'. He Authored eight books of poems, nine plays, two books of criticism in Kannada and English. He is a recipient of Central Sangeet, Natak Academy Award and MHRD Fellowship for Literature.



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