ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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'In a Permitted Space'

Sri Lankan Theatre in a Time of Terror: Political Satire in a Permitted Space by Ranjini Obeysekere; Sage, New Delhi, 1999; pp 209, Rs 225 (pb).

Contemporary south Asian theatre, and writing in general (except in English) is scarcely talked or written about. There are a few books, in English that is, on India’s language theatres. The most recent book is the history of Marathi theatre by Shanta Gokhale. Our national press blocks out altogether even news on writing in Indian languages. Emboldened as they are by the support they get from ‘midnight’s children’, they make short shrift of Indian writing. The other day the Sahitya Akademi released an anthology of modern Indian drama. It was not a newsworthy event for the national press. O N V Kurup, the famous Malayalam poet, read from his poetry and released the volume. All that went unnoticed in Delhi’s press. So it was a pleasant surprise to see a book on Sinhala theatre published in India.

Although the title talks of ‘Sri Lankan Theatre’ it is a book on Sinhala rather than ‘Sri Lankan’ theatre. By the author’s own admission the Tamil theatre of Sri Lanka is outside the scope of the book. There is nothing wrong in concentrating on a theatre tradition in one language in a multilingual and multi-ethnic society. The author is fortunately free of the influences that we see in India which make us look rather unnaturally and unrealistically for the so-called ‘Indian’ theatre which goes beyond language. Obeysekere has defined and delimited the frontiers of her enquiry.

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