Journal of South Asian Literature. v 11, V. 11 ( 1976) p. 265.


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FOUR PLAYS OF NISSIM EZEKIEL

Towards a critical appraisal of the playwright

In an interview with Suresh Kohli 1n a previous issue of this journal (Winter, 1972, pp. 7-10), Nissim Ezekiel stated that he was then "at work on some new plays" and felt "a toss of interest in the first lot," though his interest in them, he went on, "may revive later." Earlier in his remarks he stated that he did not "think too badly" of his plays, but also did not "think very highly of them either."

In light of this, if not outrightly presumptuous, it is at least premature to reach any critical conclusions. As Ezekiel himself put it in the interview: "I've been writing poetry for more than twenty years, while my plays were all written in 1968, quite recently. It is too early for me to start making comments on them." Perhaps in time, with any revisions and some new plays, penetrating critical assessment on his plays can be made, whether merely as a separate corpus of works, or in relation to his poetry, or in relation to other Indo-Anglian drama. This last has been briefly touched upon by Satyadev Dubey in Enact (December 1969, p. 3), wherein Asif Currimbhoy is briefly mentioned and Ezekiel and Partap Sharma are more extensively treated -- though none is really compared with the others.

Nevertheless, even with the reservations, it could be of some profit to note the common dramatic outlook and methodology in four of his readily accessible plays: Natini^ Marriage Poem^ and The Sleepwalkers (all published in one volume, entitled Three Plays ^ by Writers Workshop, Calcutta, and copyrighted 1969), and Song of Deprivation (Enact, July 1969, p. 4); a fifth, Who Needs No Introduction^ is mentioned by Dubey in his Enact article (but will not be treated herein; it is apparently an early "sketch"). All are short;

the longest (which Ezekiel referred to as "the full-length one" in the interview), though three acts is only about forty-five pages of a book of the Writers Workshop format.

All exhibit a stylistic approach which frankly admits itself as theatre. One, The Sleepwalkers^ subtitled An Indo-American Farce (see p.179 of this issue), is ritualistic in tone, opening with a parody of The Lord Prayer:

"Give us this day our daily American," followed by a lengthy listing of the kinds of daily American: "Our American Town Planner," "Our American Traffic Control Expert," and so one All characters, except, significantly, a bearer,



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