(Last Updated on : 06-04-2013)
Social Dramas in Assamese Literature reflect the social picture of the Assam canvas. Literature and society go hand in hand and literature being an indispensable form of art encapsulates the socio-political and economic idiosyncrasies. The motif of social reform of earlier plays has been replaced by the motif of diagnosis of social problems, mostly economic and civic, with which the townspeople are confronted today. The problems of women in the new set-up also ' figure prominently.
Reality when divided into two broad heads thrives to showcase social realism and psychological realism. Social realism forms the structural bricks of Social Dramas.
Social dramas can be categorized into two broad categories: domestic dramas or kitchen sink dramas of the type of Arthur Jones and Arthur Pinero and social dramas that depict political and socio-economic problems. Social dramas are marked by an economy of scenes and acts. Their characters are presented as victims of social forces or fixed within the circumstantial webs or intricacies. These characters represent social ideas and impulses. Domestic drama was introduced by N. C. Bardoloi whose first drama in this direction is Griha Lakshmi (1911). It describes the sufferings of a woman whose husband is a spendthrift. G. K. Barua's Uma depicts a contrast between two women, Sumitra and Uma. Lakshmi Sarma's Nirmala is the story of a widow who commits suicide due to social non compliance.
Social analysis and structural experimentation had been a trend setting discourse in the sky of Assamese drama; publication of history drama, though not as strong as that of poetry and prose. Most dramas appear in journals or remain unpublished though performed. From Ibsen, Chekhov, to Shaw, Beckett, Ionesco, Brecht the influence has indeed been a great one. Absurd drama and symbolic plays though hardly an oft recurred influx in Assamese drama, often indulge in psychological ramification of social idiosyncrasies as for example in Arun Sharma's Shri Nibaron Bhattacharya, and Ahar, or even in Basanta Saikia's Manoh and Asur. There is propagation but no propagandist attitude.
Sarada Bordoloi's Pahila Tarikh (First Day of the Month) brings out the precarious economic life of the lower middle class and wage-group whose monthly pay is exhausted on the very pay day itself in discharging the debts of the preceding month. After the installation of the Gauhati and Shillong
Studios of the All India Radio
, one-act plays have become very popular. Some of these one-act plays possess literary distinction. These plays concentrate not on plot but on a single situation, analysing therein the inner conflicts of the men and women of today -conflicts born of economic and social ills. These are illuminating studies of some particular character, situation or problem, and as such they are allied in technique to short stories. The first strongly conceived one-act play in Assamese, Ebelar Nat (Drama of a Half-day); depicts the conflicts of ideals and hopes among the members of a single family-father, mother, son and daughter-some sticking to old values, others holding firmly to new ones, all the happenings being confined to one half of a day. The development of the subject-matter and the arrangement of the dialogue has been so deftly handled that it is difficult to ascribe the incidents and characters to any particular locality or people. The treatment rises above racial barriers, and embraces wider issues. In the years ahead the one act play will remain the only dramatic entertainment for people of diverse tastes.
The social group of plays may be sub-divided into serious pieces and light ones. They focus attention on Assamese social and domestic life. In the lighter social plays incongruities and failings of daily life are mirrored to excite mirth and laughter. The social group of plays may be sub-divided into serious pieces and light ones. They focus attention on Assamese social and domestic life. In the lighter social plays incongruities and failings of daily life are mirrored to excite mirth and laughter.
Of the earliest social plays of the British period mention may be made of Ram Navami by Gunabhiram Barua, Bangdl Bangalani by Rudraram Bardaloi, and Kaniyar Kirtan by Hem Chandra Barua
. The play Ram Navami emphasises the necessity of widow remarriage, by dramatising the tragic sequel to its prohibition. A child-widow Navami, a Brahmin girl, falls in illicit love with Ram. She becomes pregnant and, unable to stand up against the social odium and apprehensive of social ostracism, both Ram and Navami commit suicide. Bangal-Bangalani also deals with illicit love, scoundrelistic and knavery. Kaniyar Kirtan is a propaganda-play dealing with the evil effects of opium-addiction. The play also exposes the moral hypocrisy, falsehood and shams of those who profess to be guardians of religion and social ethics. In his play Mahari (The Clerk) Durga Prasad Majindar Barua paints the wretched life of an ill-paid, overworked clerk of a tea-garden. The clerk's life contrasts sharply with the riotous and licentious living of its rich English manager, Mr. Fox. These farces of rollicking fun are like two-edged knives in their scornful condemnation. They slash the superstitious beliefs of the local people, they also assail blind and silly imitations of the West and strip naked the ragged follies of the time. One thing must be said at least for truth's sake: many of these earlier farce-writers sought to give realistic pictures of a corrupt society and they emphasized vices rather, than virtues and consequently gave us low-toned plays without much moral significance.
J. P. Agar-walla's Karengar ligiri (1934) is one of the best domestic tragedies of the romantic type as far as technique is concerned. Agarwalla's Rupalim (1936) is a tragic story of romantic love. Suresh Goswami's Runumi (1946) is a similar drama. Such plots were set in the background of remote regions. Rupalim is a drama where sensual love is controlled by intellectual realization. Agarwalla's Labhita (1948) is a powerful socio-political play which is written against the background of tragic social conditions. Atul Hazarika's Ahuti is also written against a similar background. D. Sarma's Kon bate (1962) has captured the spirit of the social forces of that time. Pravin Phukan social dramas are Dr. Promod, Satikar ban (1954) and Bisvarupa (1961). He develops an artistic concept with imaginative consistency. Satyaprasad Barua's dramas are Chakaichakuwa (1939), Sikha (1957) and Jyoti Rekha (1958). Thematically these are romantic; however, they present a psycho-analytic probe into character as modern drama juxtaposes the concepts of social realism with psychological realism. Behind every human act there is an intellectual or psychological idea. Nagen Sarma's Ulkar Jui (1961) is a powerful socio-psychological drama that has a complicated plot structure.
Sarada Bardoloi's plays are (1950), Pahila tarikh (1956) and Ae batedi (1957). Magribarajan is a drama of social realism. Pahila tarikh is a realistic picture with an undertone of irony and agony of lower middle class life. S. Chakravartty's Abhiman (1952) and Kankan (1956) are domestic studies of emotional conflict. Another drama that belongs to this genre is A. Pathak's Interview (1955). Other social dramas are D. Barthakur's Chaknoiya, Premnarayan Datta's Satkar and Kantharol (1950), Prafulla Barua's Asar balichar (1954), Abhoy Deka's Gara-kahania (1955) and Phani Sarma's Kiya (1960).