Poile Sengupta and the Theatre of Protest



Drama is a contemplation of life as we know it. Hence it becomes a really effectual tool to estimate the alterations in societal positions.In India, the ulterior decennaries of the 20th century have seen relatively more adult females bring forthing some really intense work. Most dramas written by adult females during these decennaries are honest, automatic, frequently violent and at times highly upseting. They try to seek an reply to the inquiry of power instability that is prevailing in our society. In this paper I have tried to analyze current tendencies in Contemporary Indian Drama in English particularly with respect to Women’s Drama i.e. dramas written by adult females dramatists, about adult females and their experiences. I’ve chosen Poile Sengupta as a representative dramatist and analysed her dramas for my survey.


Protest, Society, Theatre, Women.

Poile Sengupta and the Theatre of Protest.

A few old ages back, I was watching a filmMy Large Fat Greek Weddingwherein a female parent advises a grown up daughter stating,

“ … .You must ever retrieve, a Man is the caput of the household and the adult female is the cervix. It is the cervix that turns the caput in the way it wants to see, whatever it wants seen..”

It was at this precise minute that this journey of mine began. A journey to happen out the truth behind the words every bit good as to see if they held true in our universe /culture as it is so similar to that of the Greeks.


I chose to analyze Drama as it is the closest art signifier to life as we know it. And I chose modern-day adult females dramatists for survey so as to be able to estimate the relevancy of the words in a universe that I am a portion of.

The aim of this paper is to analyze a new tendency in theatre – the Theatre of Protest and showcase its relevancy in the dramas of Poile Sengupta, one of the first modern-day Indian dramatists.

Traditionally adult females have ne’er had, nor were allowed a voice of their ain.

“Because a adult female has forbearance, She is non allowed to talk ; And she ne’er learns the words.” Narrator inMangalam

Womans, as per societal concept and societal device, were considered inferiors and had to play domestic functions in the household and familial function in the society.

Cultural limitations, traditional barriers, spiritual norms, poorness, illiteracy, subjection and suppression have been the blocks on the manner for adult females to write down and joint their points of positions

History is proof that male authors have frequently written about adult females. In many of their plants, the cardinal character is a adult female. However, in these plants, the adult females characters are about ever seen chiefly in relation to work forces, and they are normally of involvement mostly in footings of their romantic and sexual relationships. Women authors, likewise, frequently trade with the subjects of Love, gender and matrimony, but they deal with other facets of a adult female ‘s life every bit good. The adult females dramatists in India have focused on their visual aspect on phase and interrupting all the myths and barriers they have boldly taken stairss to stand for themselves. They do non hold to be dependent on the male dramatists to be represented and act harmonizing to their pick any longer.

Womans have found play as a agency of look of their innermost feelings, and expounding of personality. They have been able to make common people through theatrical production and qualifying themselves in the dramas from their ain point of position. These adult females authors consciously or unconsciously set up themselves through a cultural individuality and the result of their literary art is to travel towards self individuality. They long and concentrate for an ultimate alteration in the society.

Theatre of Protest

The new tendency that leads Indian English play is undoubtedly dramas of adult females, by adult females for everyone. Women’s theater has emerged as a distinguishable dramatic force which stages the assorted issues of modern-day Indian society.

Womans playwrights have bravely written serious and societal dramas portraying twenty-four hours to twenty-four hours life of adult females in the household, profession, community, and the society at large.It is in these texts that one feels the pulsation of the people of the state, their day-to-day battles, their jobs and troubles as touchable worlds. The issues raised in these dramas are astonishing in their assortment and scope, particularly with respect to the women’s experiences. Such dramas are a beginning of authorization ; they enable adult females to talk out. It is at the intersection of art, activism, and societal relevancy. Such theatre Acts of the Apostless as an instrument of existent alteration in women’s lives. It is an geographic expedition of women’s ain unique idiom – their ain signifier, their linguistic communication, and ways of communicating. It is a challenge to the established impressions of theater. It can therefore be attributed as a ‘Theatre Of Protest’ because adult females authors expressed their bitterness against the political relations of development on the footing of gender favoritism.

These dramas do non restrict themselves merely to the domestic domain or love and love affair. They touch upon every sphere of life and offer a scope of analyses of the place of adult females and different schemes that need to be adopted to negociate societal alteration. In fact, through their scrutiny of the material fortunes of human life, the work of these playwrights demands a reconsideration and reformulation of the comfortably established paradigms of society.

As Tutun Mukherjee, high Critic and professor at Hyderabad Central University says about these Women Playwrights,

“Their dramas have no author-defined decisions, no declarations, and no happy/sad terminations. They do non take at mental or emotional peace but near in indecision, merely as life’s experiences frequently do. The dramas disturb and churn the equilibrium ; they provoke and demand response. They try to hammer a new sort of audience that will non anticipate to be entertained but will take part in the dialectics since the issues refering adult females and kids are of the sort that have constantly been and go on to be side-stepped and neglected by the society.”

Therefore, in some signifier, each of these dramas trade with some signifier of opposition, sometimes seeking to analyse women’s sexual development in the domestic and public sphere, sometimes accepting women’s ain complicity in such development. In either manner, they try to specify women’s theater against male-dominated political orientations and seek to stand for the under-represented facet of sexual maltreatment in women’s lives.


There are many issues that bar adult females from composing dramas as gender differences, spiritual barriers, cultural limitations, deficiency of economic support, predominating biass against adult females ( adult females can non bring forth good dramas ) , household duties and above all deficiency of standard instruction. In malice of these restraints, a few adult females dramatists have succeeded in their enterprises to compose and bring forth dramas in India and have been acclaimed internationally every bit good. Dina Mehta, Manjula Padmanabhan, Poile Sengupta and Tripurari Sharma are some of the names to reference who have been working indefatigably in the field of play and have published many dramas. These dramas are linked by a commonalty of subjects and their purpose bound by a common vision. A perennial subject is that of psychosexual maltreatment and how adult females cope with sexism in mundane life. The limelight is on adult females taging out their anguish, the hurting, and frequently the lower status that they suffer.

Raju Parghi in his article ‘Indian Drama and the Emergence of Indian Women Playwrights: A Brief Survey’ claims that dramas written by adult females can be loosely categorized into four wide classs. He says,

“The subjects of the dramas written by adult females largely deal with the issues related to adult females, at the same clip they besides depict children’s universe and the issues related to work forces. The adult females dramatists are witting of modern-day issues blended with disturbing past memories, outlook of better and blissful hereafter effort to show balanced positions on both society and household. Their many-sided subjects can be compressed under four wide classs of dramas. The Plays of Relationships include subjects like maternity, intricate baffling relationship of work forces and adult females, incest and criminal conversation. The Plays of Violence focal point on assorted types of force as physical, emotional, psychological, and the development of adult females at place and in profession. The Plays of Resistance present the subjects of, voicing against colza, unfairness and inequality, poorness illiteracy and gender favoritism. The Plays of Revolution suggests the subjects of voice of the voiceless, political issues, spiritual and superstitious patterns conservative values and traditional restrictions.”

Poile Sengupta

Poile ( Ambika ) Sengupta is one of India’s foremost dramatists in English. She has written many dramas and all her dramas have been performed every now and so in Banglore. Mangalam, was written in 1993 and produced the following twelvemonth. Her other dramas include Inner Laws, ( 1994 ) , A Pretty Business ( 1995 ) , Keats was a Tuber ( 1996 ) , Collages ( 1998 ) , Alipha and Thus Spake Shoorpanakha, So Said Shakuni ( 2001 ) and Samara’s Song ( 2007 ) . Mangalam was published by Seagull in Body Blows ( 2000 ) .

In the Preface to an anthology of her dramas, Poile Sengupta says,

“ … when I write, I do so with the consciousness, the esthesia that is mine. However I’ve ever been troubled about the position of adult females, and kids, who seem to be the worst sick persons in any struggle, whether familial, societal or political.” She besides claims to bask the challenge of forging the grammar of an English sentence into what is basically an ‘Indian’ sentence structure.

Her first dramaMangalamwonThe Hindu –Madras Players Play-scripts Competition in 1993. It is a singular drama that revolves around a dead individual. The interaction among the characters probes the yesteryear that hides many skeletons. Each character is nuanced and individualised and each memory adds flesh and blood to the absent Mangalam. The unseeable is made seeable through memories.

Mangalam is the female character in the drama within the drama, whose decease becomes, in a manner, the footing for much of the action. Throughout the first Act, we can experience her ‘absent presence’ , through mentions to the clip of her life when she was alive. At first, we are told that she likely committed self-destruction by get downing pills, but we are non given any ground for her holding done so. It is merely the narrator’s choric commentary that provides penetrations like “Women die many sorts of deceases ; work forces do non cognize this.” ( 102 ) . Gradually we learn that she was transporting person else’s kid when she got married to Dorai. Her sister Thangam’s response to this accusal is, “Did you of all time think that it could hold been forced upon her? ” ( 122 ) . Not willing to yield on this, Dorai is acute on showing himself as the victim, until Thangam rejoinders, “What about that married adult female who used to come to the temple mundane and takeprasaadamfrom your male parent? She tookprasaadamfrom you besides, didn’t she? ” ( 121 ) . While any intimations of a woman’s unchaste behavior can badmouth her repute for life, a similar act on a man’s portion, is excusable and can be easy ignored. Dorai, nevertheless, still has the audaciousness to warrant himself, “It’s different for a man” ( 121 ) . The brazenness with which such private facets of a woman’s life are openly discussed, defaming her repute even after her decease, is nil more than a war of political orientations between the characters, none of whom are truly sensitive to the loss of Mangalam. The female voice wing remarks: “Because a adult female is strong, she is non to be protected ; others violate her, and she must pay for their trespass.” ( 123 ) . It is at the terminal of the first Act, that we get to cognize that Mangalam was molested by her ain sister Thangam’s hubby, alongside which intelligence, Dorai’s girl Usha excessively arrives, holding left her husband’s house, because the subjugation at that place, had got the better of her. Domestic infinite, which is the marker that tradition sets for the saving of women’s celibacy ( Sita was abducted when she crossed the boundary marked by Lakshman ) , has now become a infinite of sexual force and has led to an deadlock for adult females.

Act Two is, in a manner, a remark upon Act One, because one realizes that the first Act was a drama within the drama one is reading. However, the same subjects recur here, excessively. In fact, Sengupta uses the same histrions in this Act as in the old one, to picture the pitiless repeat of development, even though in the 2nd Act, ‘modernity’ has set in. Suresh is a contemporary ‘rake’ who values merely conquering over adult females. This is why his sister Sumati is led to note, “…the minute a adult female doesn’t tantrum into the class of being a female parent or a sister, she’s baggage…sexual baggage.” ( 129 ) . Very shortly, Thangam learns that her hubby Sreeni has been holding a cloak-and-dagger extra-marital matter with another adult female, which leaves a sense of hopeless rapprochement in the reader’s head. It gets farther aggravated when Radha tells Vikram: “ [ Sumati ] had gone out with [ a ] adult male and I think he was violent with her. She didn’t realize…he suddenly…” ( 146 ) . Towards the terminal, merely when Thangam has gained courage plenty to go forth her hubby, a sudden panicky shriek is heard, which one shortly learns, is Sumati’s, seeking to get away from the progresss of her uncle.

Another drama titledKeats was a tuberwas short-listed for the British Council International New Playwriting Prize in 1997. Very realistic and humourous, it presents a group of English instructors in a provincial college and brings into play our ambivalent attitude to English and the manner it is by and large taught. The mindless memorizing of facts, frequently non the indispensable 1s, is what gives the drama its rubric. The pupils memorize the line ‘Keats was a TB patient’ by interrupting it into two nonmeaningful parts: “Keats was a tuber, Keats was a tuber” and “culosis patient, culosis patient….” The memorized line does little to explicate Keats’ poetic mastermind and illustrates the mechanical and spiritless instruction that drains a linguistic communication and a literature of their beauty and entreaty, and in no manner AIDSs larning. As the human relationships unfold in the drama, Sengupta makes superb usage of the English linguistic communication – with each character showing an individualizing inflexion — as a span between those who teach and those who are taught.

Some of her other really good known plants areInner Laws( 1994 ) , a satirical sit-com about five mothers-in-law and their five daughters-in-law whose names are drawn from the heroic poems ; and a woman-centred drama calledA Pretty Business( 1995 ) . Her dramaDream – shapers of Calcuttawith its background of football was published inTelegraphin 1998. Sengupta explains that she wroteCollagesin 1998 after she met a beloved old lady at the British Council Library who talked to her for hours as though she was despairing for person to speak to. She seemed a sad and alone adult female. The drama excessively is inexorable and brooding in its tone and manner. A 1999 drama,Samara’s Song, deducing its name from an Iraqi metropolis, is a plaintive socio-political contemplation on the force that wipes out all hints of civilization and civilisation. In its aftermath comes the sense of irreparable human loss. The dramaAlifa( 2001 ) remembering the first word in the alphabet in Hindusthani, dramatizes the obstructions in the manner of women’s authorization. There are merely two characters, a adult female and a adult male, wholly unrelated and unknown to each other and highly different in disposition and character yet at certain points their narrations intersect. The phase lights up one and the other alternately as they tell their narratives. The drama is both appealing and relevant.

Sengupta’sTherefore Spake Shoorpanakha, So Said Shakuni( 2001 ) is an ambitious drama which takes its characters from two different heroic poems. They meet as two travellers at an airdrome. Gradually they start speaking and uncover their innermost ideas about the manner they have been abused by history. Sengupta explains that she was fascinated by a folk tale about Shakuni’s brothers being imprisoned and killed by the Kauravas when Hastinapur land was extended to Qandahar in the Northwest. Merely Shakuni had survived and he swore retaliation upon the Kauravas. His die were made of his brothers’ castanetss. Shoorpanakha, on the other manus, represents all those adult females who are bold plenty to stay individual and declare their desire for male company without taking resort to false modestness. Such adult females threaten the male universe so they are described as “dangerous rakshasis” ( un-Aryan demonesses ) who must be controlled/contained/ punished before they can upset the patriarchal set-up. When these two characters meet in a modern-day state of affairs, another crisis begins to endanger the universe. Finally it is Shoorpanakha who dissuades Shakuni from arousing another bloodletting.


The Indian adult females dramatists consider drama a more serious tool of look and representation. They have dealt with certain issues which the work forces dramatists have failed to make. They have adopted the genre as a more practical agencies to show serious familial, societal cultural and political issues, the flagitious offenses and patterns of the society in satirical manner. Their purpose is to convey consciousness of certain rough worlds, to protect every individual’s basic rights, to populate freely, and to esteem every single irrespective of different gender caste or credo. The above mentioned four types of dramas can be once more compressed into one umbrella term as ‘The Plays of Change’ a new tendency that possibly goes manus in manus with the theater of adult females.

As Poile herself says through the storyteller inMangalam

“As for the adult females, the Gods said Let them be strong, rooted like trees For it is they who shall keep The terminals of the universe together, And there will be storms And the air currents will blow really strong But the adult females will remain like trees, They will keep the universe together.”


  1. Kaushik, Minakshi ( 2012 ) , Struggle and Expression: Selected Plaies by Manjula Padmanabhan, Poile Sengupta and Dina Mehta,Galaxy: International Multidisciplinary Research Journal,1 ( 1 ) .
  2. Mukherjee, Tutun ( 2005 ) , Ed.Staging Resistance: Plaies by Women in Translation,OUP, New Delhi.
  3. Mukherjee, Tutun ( 2007 ) , Finding a Voice: Forging an Audience: Women Playwrights in English,Muse India ( Web-Zine, ) ,Issue 14.
  4. Parghi, Raju ( 2010 ) , Indian Drama and the Emergence of Indian Women Playwrights: A Brief Survey,Impressions: An e-journal of English Studies,1 ( 1 )
  5. Sengupta, Poile ( 2010 ) ,Womans Centerstage: The Dramatist and the Play, Routledge, New Delhi.
  6. Singh, Anita ( 2009 ) , Feminist Interventions: A Reading of Light’s Out, Geting Away with Murder and Mangalam,Muse India,Issue 26.


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