In Naga Mandala, Girish Karnad uses elements from traditional theatre to weave together two oral tales handed down by women story tellers. The first comments on the paradoxical nature of oral tales they have an existence of their own independent of the teller, and yet depend on being passed from one person to another to love through generations. Ensconced within this is the story of Rani, who makes up tales to fill the void in her life. Rani’s predicament poignantly reflects the human need to live by fiction and half truths.
Girish Karnad, named world theatre Ambassador of the International Theatre
Institute (ITI) of UNESCO, paris, was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. Apart from
his work in theatre, he has directed and acted in films. He has served as Director,
Film and Television Institute of India; Chairman, Sangeet natak Akadami (the
National Academy of the Performing Arts); and Director, The Nehru Centre, London.
He was visiting professor and playwright-in-Residence at the university of Chicago.
Naga Mandala was premiered in the US by the Guthrie Theatre of Minneapolis as
a part of its thirtieth anniversary celebrations. The Guthrie Theatre of Minneapolis
as a part of its thirtieth anniversary celebrations. The Guthrie and the Haymarket
Theatre, Leicester, UK have been among the theatres that commissioned him to
write for them. He has been honoured with the Padma Bhushan (1992) and was conferred
the prestigious Jnanpith Awad (1999).
Naga-Mandala is based on two oral tales from Karnataka which I first heard several years ago from Professor A.K. Ramanujan. But that is only the least of the reasons for dedicating this play to him.
I wrote Naga Mandal during the year I spent at the University of Chicago as Visiting Professor and Fulbright Scholar in Residence. I am most grateful to professor Stuart M. Tave, Dean, division of Humanities, and Professor C.M. Naim, Chairmen, Dapartment of South Asian Languages and civilization as well as to the council for International exchange of Scholars for having made that visit possible. I am further indebted to professor Naim for persuading me to put the play into English.
I write in Kannada. English is the language of my adulthood. This translation must therefore be seen only as an approximation to the original. My deepest thanks are due to the colleagues and students who helped with the production of the play at the University Theater at Chicago, for their many valuable suggestions and textual corrections, as well as to Shri Shankar Nag who first presented the play in Kannada with his group Sanket.
I am conscious that Naga’s Long speech on p. 25 owes much to Jean Anouilh, though I have not been able to identify the play.
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