(Last Updated on : 10-03-2012)
Manmatha Ray was a Bengali dramatist who represented more truly than anyone else the transition in Bengali literature
. It was the time when the paradigms of earlier play- wrights no longer met the requirements of rejuvenated Bengali theatre
in the 1920s. Yet writers with modern ideas of drama had not arrived. The large number of plays he wrote over nearly forty years shows his awareness of the need for change as well as the limitations he suffered from in applying it.
Manmatha Ray's first full-length work, Chandsaudagar or 'Chand the Trader' in 1927 was based on a Bengali legend full of dramatic material. One can discover suggestions in it of a new interpretation. The same is noticeable in many subsequent dramatizations of stories from the Hindu epics, Puranas, and Indian mythology
. They show a progressive improvement in his craft of playwriting and use of ancient lore in such a way that audiences could make subterranean connections with contemporary events. He succeeded best in Karagar or "Prison" in 1930. The Puranic story of the birth in incarceration of Lord Krishna
destined to kill the tyrant Kansa
. It was plainly allegorical of the political upsurge of the times when the British East India Company
had filled the jails with nationalist leaders and followers fighting for freedom.
Manmatha Ray also wrote historical drama
in 1933 and Mir Qasim
in 1938 and many social plays. He broke fresh ground in moving away from gods, kings, and the middle class to deal with factory workers as in Dharmaghat or "Strike" in 1953, the neglected poor as in Totopara and exploited tribal of West Begal as in Santal bidroha or "Santal Rebellion" in 1958. Unfortunately, he floundered in devising an appropriate form and language to express his keen awareness of social and political issues. Adherence to outworn conventions robbed many scripts of their modernity and significance. His numerous one-act plays constitute his other notable contribution to Bengali plays
and dramas. Manmatha Ray died in 1988.
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