The Shakespeare of Dalit
Having written 35 plays, he is known as Shakespeare. However, the only similarity is the same number of plays what Shakespeare has in account. He has written special things about common mass whereas Shakespeare wrote common things about special people. Mahendra Malangia is one of the milestones of modern theatre of Mithila, a cultural region depicting the sensibilities of people from Bihar and South Nepal. A farmer and teacher from a small multi-caste village, Malangia is devoted for theatre as to advocate the oppressed and disadvantaged wings of society.
Like other parts of India, Mithila is also a highly cast-ridden society where ruthless differences can be seen in every walk of life; not only among people and customs but also in language as Maithili being the mother-tongue is categorised according to particular caste. If talking about arts, the region has witnessed the evolution of Mithila (Madhubani) painting and the development or degradation of various arts & crafts forms such as Sujni, Siki, Khatwa, Manjusha, folk music & dance, Vidyapati Sangeet etc. Mithila too had the rich classical theatre in Sanskrit & Maithili before 15th century which was later replaced by the lively folk theatre practiced by untouchables.
The early modern Maithili theatre practitioners initiated a theatre for upper casts mostly influenced by the classical theatre where the subjects discuss the life of either gods, positioned at the top of the godâ€™s hierarchy or the people belong to the upper levels of the society. Side-by- side, the lower casts carried on with folk theatre, their own gods (Dalit gods), people and language. Ironically, there was no way of mingling the two streams of theatre as the intellectuals (almost all belong to the upper casts) always believed in either the former group or in â€˜no theatre for civilised societyâ€™.
Here came few daring and pioneering men, who took the oath to change the discourse by creating dialogues between the two opposite sections of society, Malangia was one of them. Now it is possible for one to observe the 5, 000 to 10, 000 couple of eyes watching some painted moving characters in a remote village of Bihar when the dark night stares at a lighted stage and enjoys â€˜the saga of untold and the voices of unheardâ€™. Malangia has crafted this magic in which the sons of oppressors portray the sons of oppressed with the genuine feelings and in their alleged crude or uncivilised language.
This new form of theatre is a tribute to ever-neglected, downtrodden wing of society; well- written and well-performed by groups consisting members from diverse castes, religions and nationalities. The effective combination of realistic themes & styles with indigenous taste illustrate the untouched subjects such as the life of underprivileged, human relationship, contemporary picture of rural and semi-urban life, outstanding story design & dialogue and a theatre of all three generation in terms of aesthetics, thought and presentation style. The standard of creation & entertainment at the least resources develop low cost theatre, a demand of time and situation.
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