Indian-language theatre of the second half of the twentieth century contains the largest clustering of “modernist,” as well as “postcolonial” drama outside the circuits of euro-American textuality and performance, but the qualities that make this body of writing a notable formation also contribute to its virtual exclusion from discussions of postcolonial and global modernisms because the new modernist studies has dealt very sparingly with non-european languages. In this essay, a method of “representative reading” is suggested that connects a major post-independence play—Vijay Tendulkar’s Ghashiram kotwal (Constable Ghashiram [1972])—to the conceptual, aesthetic, and linguistic frameworks of Indian modernisms, with particular attention to three sets of paradoxical relations: between an intensely personal authorial self and an impersonal social art; between the simultaneous representation and de-historicization of history; and between modernism and its ostensible opposite, “tradition.” Tendulkar’s singular turn toward tradition, it is argued, brings the latter unexpectedly, and transformatively, into the fold of the postcolonial modern. This reading also asserts that an Indian-language play like Ghashiram kotwal is not a “vernacular” work addressed from the ex-colonial periphery to the ex-imperial metropolitan center, but is a self-possessed immersion in expressive and cultural systems that are also metropolitan and complete in themselves.


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pp. 467-487
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