100 years of Subhadra, IC Nanda’s play on widow remarriage


Sarika Sharma

100 years in the past, Ireland was looking for freedom from British rule and its artistes had been utilizing freedom of girls as a metaphor to hunt freedom for his or her nation. Perhaps below the affect of his Irish lecturers, a younger man in India had felt swayed sufficient to take a seat up and write concerning the ladies in his personal nation, their rights, their lives, their decisions — all denied to them by the feudal society they lived in. Known as the daddy of Punjabi drama, Ishwar Chander Nanda’s 1920 play on widow remarriage, Subhadra, was a revolutionary piece of writing for the instances, a serious departure from the custom of spiritual and people theatre of Punjab. The play turns 100 this yr.

IC Nanda.

Photo courtesy: Amarjit Chandan



The three-act play tells the story of a younger widow struggling below the inflexible legal guidelines of society. Aware of her sufferings, her dad and mom really feel helpless below the social mores, however her brother needs to get her remarried to his pal. The complete world turns towards him for defying the social mores, however he persists. Nanda borrowed the plot from his pal who had tried an analogous step vis-à-vis his sister.

Playwright Atamjit factors out that the Punjab of that point was present process a tragic social change. In the previous few years, a number of males had left Punjab villages to combat in World War I. “So many lives were lost there, leaving as many women widowed. It is amid this background that Nanda talks of second marriage.”

He says Nanda was the pioneer when it got here to writing on ladies and ladies rights. “His very first play, Dulhan (which kicked off modern Punjabi drama) had the same theme — liberty of women. The society around was feudal and the drama committed itself to the cause,” he says, declaring that Nanda was below the affect of Norah Richards, the Irish actress and theatre director who launched Punjab to progressive theatre in Punjabi language. She was fondly generally known as Lady Gregory of Punjab, after the legendary Irish dramatist.

Dulhan (also referred to as Suhaag) is the story of a younger woman whose father needs to get her married to an aged man, however the woman refuses. “It is a very peculiar situation for the girl’s mother. She understands her daughter but is bound by economic compulsions. When the baraat is at the gate, the girl runs away and the parents marry her younger sister, almost an infant, to the man. While one realises that marriage of an even younger girl is a bigger problem, the elder one’s decision to run away is a revolutionary step. Nanda’s play celebrating her guts won the first prize in the competition organised by Norah Richards,” says Atamjit. The award inspired him to put in writing extra such performs. For occasion, Lily Da Viah, which was a few wealthy lady marrying her poor tutor.

A later version of the play, Subhadra. It was accompanied by
a foreward from the primary version (1920) by Sir Jogendra Singh.

courtesy: panjab digital library


Nanda toured villages staging Subhadra, beginning conversations, inviting criticisms… Theatre director Sahib Singh says Norah wrote that Nanda’s performs, together with Subhadra, typically met with criticism. “They would often create a stir and Norah would tell her students that only amid such opposition can the rigid norms of society be broken,” he says.

In current instances, nonetheless, Subhadra stands forgotten. It was final staged in 1992 by Gursharan Singh. Sahib Singh performed the progressive brother and native actor Sonia performed Subhadra. While Atamjit feels misplaced curiosity within the play hints at its irrelevance in in the present day’s instances, Sahib Singh says that so long as ladies are denied their due, the play will function a metaphor for girls’s rights.

‘Reformers’ understanding of a widow’s sexuality was advanced’

Anshu Malhotra, Professor and Kapany Chair for Sikh and Punjab Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara, has written extensively on gender points and discusses the play in her 2002 e book Gender, Caste and Religious Identities: Restructuring Class in Colonial Punjab. She says the reformers’ understanding of a widow’s sexuality was advanced, however they usually used the concern of her sexuality (exterior of marriage) to advocate widow remarriage. “IC Nanda does that in the play too. Also, in reality, not much changed for widows, with very few remarriages actually taking place,” she says. Atamjit agrees, however factors out that in Subhadra, the second marriage is just not an act of emotion, however a rational resolution. The scenario was grim, however there was no resolution. “He offered one,” he says.



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