(Last Updated on : 30/05/2012)
Censorship of theatre during colonial rule was a major aspect of theatre during the 19th century. But it was not always aestheticised politics that occupied centre stage in the Bengali theatre of late-nineteenth-century Kolkata
; 1875 and 1876 were marked by the appearance of a handful of political plays that directly critiqued British presence in India, propagating independence. Two plays in particular Sharat-Sarojini and Surendra-Binodini by Upendranath Das
(1848-95) became notorious. However, being of politically sensitive content, both plays were first published under the pseudonym of a certain late Durgadas Das.
But there was more to come. In the same year, 1875, the Great National Theatre came up with a farce titled Gajadananda o Jubaraj (Gajadananda and the Prince), allegedly by Upendranath Das. This play was a satirical account of one Jagadananda, a barrister, who had entertained the visiting Prince of Wales in his house, allowing the womenfolk of his family to meet him. This was regarded a total violation of native custom that forbade the British from trespassing into the inner sanctums of Indian households, the world of women. In the play Jagadananda became, by a simple twist of syllables, Gajadananda, the native-supplicant, the bootlicker. After the second night, Gajadananda o Jubaraj was closed down promptly by the government. It was, after all, referring not to 'rogue' planters but to British royalty, the Prince of Wales himself. On 29 February 1875, Lord Northbrook issued the Dramatic Performances Control Ordinance.
The Great National Theatre, in protest, launched a new production overnight, a farce - The Police of Pig and Sheep, ridiculing Mr Hogg and Mr Lamb, two high-ranking British police officials.
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