Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 16 (Jan-Mar 1988) p. 59.

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Brecht in Hindi: The Poetics of Response

D Vasudha Dalmia-Luderitz

Much has been said and written about the importance of Brecht for the countries of the so-called Third World. It has even been suggested that the two-dimensional dance-theatre of Asia, with no experience of realistic-naturalistic depiction could approach Brecht straight as it were.1 On the other hand there are complaints that Brechf s theatre has been 'culinarized', commercialized, not understood. Yet the widespread belief that traditional theatre forms are peculiarly suited for adaptations of Brecht, that Brecht offers incentive to revive and use meaningfully these very forms, persists, and is voiced again and again. Certainly there is no denying the factuality of Brecht's presence in the form of repeated productions and adaptations of his plays and this increasingly in folk and even dialect versions. Obviously, there is need of Brecht's theatre. And perhaps the "why Brecht' can provide us with an answer to the 'how Brechf.

After a brief historical survey of theatre aesthetics and drama, as far as it appears relevant in the context of Brecht on the modern Indian stage, I shall, in this paper, focus primarily on the similarities posited between the conventions of Indian folk theatre, here restricted to one north Indian form as traditionally practised, and Brechf s epic theatre, dealing only in passing as it were, with the 'naturalistic' tradition as it developed in India in transaction with the west.2


The principle of rasa around which a whole system of aesthetics was to evolve, appears for the first time in a treatise on drama, the Natya Sastra, in its present form from about the sixth century of the Christian era, in its oldest parts going back to the second or third century before Christ.3

Rasa is 'sap', 'essence', 'taste', it is the principle which holds together the disparate parts which go into the making of drama.4 The Natya Sastra maintains that the eight generally existing dominant states, sthayibhava, correspond to the eight rasas. These states are complex and appear in association with causes, effects and concomitant

"This paper was presented at the Seventh International Brecht Symposium, Hongkong, 8-13 December 1986; reprinted here with the kind permission of Brecht Yearbook.

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