While talking about his publication 3,Sakina Manzil and Other Plays,a collection of eight plays,playwright Ramu Ramanathan jokes that he has no clue what this book will achieve,except it may increase the number of PhD thesis on Indian English theatre.
Unlike him,its editor Lakshmi Chandra,professor at the English and Foreign Languages University,Hyderabad,is certain about recording contemporary plays so that students,thinkers and the general public have an opportunity to see the world through the eyes of a playwright living in their midst.
In her introduction to the book,Chandra gives an overview of original Indian plays written in English. It is only after the 1950s that performance-oriented drama began to appear, she says. Decades later,in the world of Indian writing in English,the genre of drama still has the status of stepchild. Works of many talented playwrights have been forgotten, she says. After her introduction to Ramanathans Mahadevbhai,a play about Mahatma Gandhi and his secretary,she thought of compiling his work to find a wider audience. The Mumbai-based playwright credits Chandra for the book. This is her project. She convinced the team at Orient Blackswan that the plays are worth publishing, says Ramanathan. The plays in the book include Mahadevbhai,The Boy Who Stopped Smiling,Curfew,Collaborators,3,Sakina Manzil,Shakespeare and She,Jazz and Shanti,Shanti,Its a War.
The plays are written between 1993 and 2008 and show the writers love for music. That apart,given Ramathans inclination towards contemporary issues and research,most of them can be termed as docu-dramas. For instance,Curfew was written immediately after the 1992-93 riots in Mumbai,3,Sakina Manzil is set in 1944 and deals with the Bombay Harbour blast,and Jazz is about the influence of jazz on Bollywood as well as the lives of the musicians who kept this genre alive.
Missing from the collection are some of Ramanathans best-known plays,including Cotton 56 Polyester 84,which is about Mumbais mill culture. That may be included in Volume II,if such a thing happens,says the playwright.