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India@75

1963: ‘Evam Indrajit’ by Badal Sircar staged

Print edition : Aug 25, 2022 T+T-

1963: ‘ Evam Indrajit’ by Badal Sircar staged

“Evam Indrajit” being performed in Chennai in May 2005.

“Evam Indrajit” being performed in Chennai in May 2005. | Photo Credit: R. RAGU

It foreshadowed the angst of the Naxalite movement and created a stir.

When Badal Sircar’s absurdist play Evam Indrajit was staged in 1963, it foreshadowed the angst of the Naxalite movement and created a stir in theatre circles. Sircar would later pioneer Third Theatre, which looks beyond the proscenium format and engages with the audience interactively, making them participate in the unfolding action.

Also read: 1964: Girish Karnad writes satire on Nehruvian era ‘Tuglaq’

Badal Sircar, a 2004 photograph.
Badal Sircar, a 2004 photograph. | Photo Credit: G.P. SAMPATH KUMAR

The protagonist Indrajit’s frustration at his meaningless life painfully held up a mirror to the 1960s reality for India’s middle-class youth. The euphoria and hope of the early Nehruvian era was over; there was a cloud of doubt in the aftermath of the loss against China in 1962; the gulf between the rich and the poor was widening; and refugees from East Pakistan were still trickling into Sircar’s home State. It was time to introspect, and that is what Indrajit does. He finds his own life wanting, he is unhappy with his job, and his romance too fizzles out. Indrajit is left alone in embittered and relentless questioning. 

When Sircar moved from the proscenium format to what he called anganmanch or courtyard theatre, his aim was to do away with the conventional theatre paraphernalia that created an illusion of reality. In 1967 he started the theatre group Shatabdi, which performed its first anganmanch play Spartacus in 1972. .

Also read: India at 75: Epochal moments from the 1960s

Theatre in India in the 19 th and 20 th centuries was an important site of social and political questioning. Sircar enriched and reinvented that tradition in ways that would endure.