(Last Updated on : 02/04/2012)
Ramshankar Ray was a landmark in Oriya theatre. Although not the first Oriya dramatist, he is credited as the first successful playwright. In 1878 he saw a Bengali production in Cuttack and resolved to write drama in Oriya. His first play, Kanchi-Kaveri in 1880 was staged in 1881. He chose as hero Gajapati Purushottam Dev, illustrious king of the Surya
dynasty of Orissa
, through whose historic war with the king of Kanchi, Saluva Narasimha Dev, Ray depicted Oriya patriotism. The play won the hearts of audiences instantly by its popular nationalistic theme and attractive presentation
Ramshankar Ray never looked back and by 1917 had written as many as fourteen historical, mythological, and social works, including traditional Yatra
, and downright farce. He was the first author to present Shakespeare in Oriya. He adapted The Tempest as Batiabala in 1882, and tried his best to adopt a Shakespearean style. However, keeping in view the taste of spectators, he had to follow Indian classical and folk traditions too.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, under the influence of Western education, socially conscious Indian writers started dreaming of reform. Ray was no exception. In his social drama, he took on the role of a reformist. Kalikal in 1883 dealt with the harmful effects of alcoholism. Budhabara or "Old Groom" in 1892 dealt with problems created by older men marrying young girls. Bisha modak or 'Poisonous Tablet' in 1900 dealt with intoxication and loans while Yuga-dharma i.e. "Dharma of the Age" in 1902 dealt with the rigidity of Hinduism. Elsewhere, he wrote about women's education, development through industrialization, eradication of unemployment, and evils of the dowry system. He presented these issues in simple and lucid language, aided by ample but effective music. Even in his mythological plays, like Rama banabas or "Rama's Exile" in 1891, Kamsavadh or "Kamsa's Killing" in 1896, Chaitanya Ma i.e.
"Chaitanya's Lila" in 1906, and Ramabhishek i.e. "Rama's Coronation" in 1917 his scientific outlook aimed to change the philosophy of Oriyas. Ramshankar Ray died in 1931.
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