Early Life of Kali Charan Patnaik
While still a college student, he published his first play Dhruva in 1918. This was a mythological drama. The untimely death of his father left him alone to decide his future and he chose theatre as his career. For some time, he served as court poet under the king of Mayurbhanj, Orissa, where he wrote and directed three mythological productions in 1923. The names can be mentioned as Mrigaya or "Hunt", Sakuntala, and Harishchandra. After leaving Mayurbhanj and doing odd jobs here and there, he finally organized his own professional touring company, Sakshi Gopal Natya Sangha, in 1929.
Career in Theatre for Kali Charan Patnaik
This troupe remained active for a decade, taking ten of Patnaik's Rahasa scripts such as Bansari vilas i.e. "Flute-playing" in 1922, Banavihar or "In the Wilderness" in 1927, Kishor Chandrananda champn i.e. "Kishor Chandra's Delight" in 1932, Sri Gita Govinda or "The Songs of Govinda" in 1936, Priti sudhakar or "Moon of Love" in 1937. These were famous around Orissa as well as outside, to Jamshedpur and Kolkata. It was popularly known as Kali Babu's Rahasa Party. But noticing the changing tastes of viewers, Patnaik decided to switch to social drama. He had noted the overwhelmingly favourable audience response to two such works by him, Pratishodh i.e. "Revenge" in 1934 and Ahuti i.e. "Offerings" in 1935, in his company's performances.
Hence in 1939 he established Orissa Theatre in Cuttack, staging mostly his plays and touring throughout Oriya-speaking regions. The year 1942 was a red-letter year, for the premiere of his trailblazing social drama, Girls' School. For the first time, Oriya theatre discarded the attire of emotional unnaturalness and became true to life. Dialogue, characters, and plot were taken from the immediate surroundings. The representation of people, family, and society in Patnaik's works turned so realistic that he became the uncrowned king of Oriya drama, unchallenged till his death. These plays include Chumban or 'Kiss' in 1942, Jaydev in 1943, Bhata or 'Rice' in 1944, Chakri or "Conspirator" in 1944, Abhijan i.e. 'Expedition' in 1946, Rakta mati i.e. 'Bloody Soil' in 1947, Phata bhuin i.e. "Land Divided" in 1947, and Rakta mandara i.e. "Blood-red Coral-flower" in 1952.
Although Kali Charan Patnaik has also written historical drama, he had a strong sense of patriotism. He excelled in social plays depicting the customs and traditions of the Oriya middle class. Also for the first time, Oriya drama got the services of a powerful and talented poet. His rare knowledge of folk music helped to provide sweet and sonorous music in his productions, appealing strongly to listeners. Lucid, simple, lively dialogue, together with pure yet intelligent humour drawn from life, became other salient reasons for his popularity. His unparalleled contribution to Oriya theatre has been suitably acknowledged by such decorations as the title of Kavichandra in 1944 from the Gajapati, Raja of Puri, and the Government of India's Padma Sri. Patnaik politely declined the Padma Sri award. Kali Charan Patnaik was a great scholar who has also edited many rare Oriya manuscripts on the performing arts.
This legendary personality died in 1978.
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