Love, sex and perversion in Girish Karnad’s ‘Wedding Album’

ABSTRACT:

Girsh Karnad was an Indian playwright, actor, film director and a scholar. He was a left winger by ideology. For almost four decades he composed plays and using Indian history and mythology but distorting them according to his ideology. His plays have been translated in many languages. In the Indian cinema, he worked as an actor, director and writer in Hindi and Kannada. He also occupied many high positions and earned many awards.  In the Wedding Album he has very satirically described a fat Hindu Brahmin wedding.

KEYWORDS:

1- Yearning, 2- Quest, 3- anxieties, 4- conjugal, 5- empowerment, 6- hoodlums, 7- sensuousness, 8- Brahmin, 9- wedding, 10- ideological, 11- Marriage. 12- values.

INTRODUCTION:

Girish Karnad is a leading Indian playwright but he remained entangled to his ideological compulsions and gave dimensions to his creative work accordingly. He tried to convert the historical truths and folk themes into existential plays but the pulls of his ideology are discernible everywhere. Multiple influences pulled Karnad into different directions and there were direct clash between his left and Indian ideologies.

“Yearning for money, desire and reputation have made man crazy and he finds himself in solitude on the dull shore of incompleteness without any glimpse of life– providing water, suffocated and caught in his own ambitions battling with the question – “To be or not to be”. Globalization and scientific research have damaged our cultural and moral values to a major extent and we are on the edge of ‘Gone’. Existentialism, Lust, craving for money, women’s emancipation, and liberation have been the topics of priority of modern writers, whereas Karnad exceeds expectations here by having the framework of mythology and history and looks over the problem of an individual in the modern setting.”

(RJELAL, p-1)

Wedding Album is also not an exceptional play of Karnad. He tried to use myths and history but failed. In the play Karnad has taken so many issues and popular topic for activism like conjugal relationship, sex, class, caste, attitude, self-interest, obedience, family authority, bureaucratic corruption, chastity, business, etc all intruded into the marriage institution of Hindus, rather he has tried to demonise the Hinduism.

Karnad has tried to weave all these issues into the plot and theme of “Wedding Album.” This modern age is an age of socio-economic-political changes. It is a very complex age and struggling to find out the answers of the puzzles of the past. This age is burdened with pressures and tainted issues of life. On the one hand there is materialistic fulfillment and on the other hand loss of values and spiritual ecstasy.

VIDULA: I got bored. If I come to the US, will I need to work? I am not really not very good at it.

ROHIT (offscreen) : Why don’t you smile a bit? Look cheerful.

VIDULA: Am I looking depressed?

ROHIT ( offscreen) No. No. But cheer up. Look happy. Shall we start again?

VIDULA (aghast) : Again? Absolutely not. This is the third time.

ROHIT ( offscreen): I know. But remember, you are trying to show your best face to him.

(Wedding Album, Sc-1,p-5)

Quest for money and name have made man wild and in search of peace and roots. He is incomplete within. Mindless freedom and confused education have damaged our moral and cultural richness and we are almost a lost generation. The playwright has connected all this with Existentialism. Lust, greed, women’s empowerment, and liberation have been very popular topics with the modern writers but Karnad has exceeds the depiction of mythology and history in the setting of his ideology.  In this manner he has distorted the Indian culture and history in literature and brings negative views in readers about India’s cultural and  historical splendor. Creatively he failed on the sensation of existing pressures. In his plays he deals with the issues of doubts, envy, loneliness, frustration, gloom, hunt for identity, thirst for money and celebrity, and other contemporary issues like caste disparity and status of women in a patriarchal society. He has tried to discuss the old dead issues and projected himself as modern.

“Girish Karnad?s Wedding Album is a blend of anxieties and resentments deep rooted in Indian marriage institution. According to Amrit Srinivasan, the play is a constellation of sexual, conjugal, cast, class and age related behaviours and attitudes of selfishness and sacrifice, chastity and commerce, obedience and authority, all integral to modern Hindu marriage institution.”

(Lapis Lazuli, p-1)

 Wedding Album, the latest play written by playwright Girish Karnad in 2009, is a humorous that is intensely revelatory about Indian lives today. The main theme of Wedding Album is South Indian Brahmin marriage and family system. He has tried to show —-‘very directly invokes the repressed half of my devadasi, or ‘Wife-of-the God’ story,…’ (Foreward, p-vii, Wedding Album). Karnad was very critical of strong ideological bonds of Hindu marriages which is one of the strongest and most sacred institution that new India, continue and assertively follow with. They try to protect and project this as a way to self-fulfillment and bliss in an rickety confused world.

VIDULA: I’m glad my wedding is giving everyone a chance to let off steam.

MOTHER: It has nothing to do with our wedding. She is always like that! It’s the same story, every year. For the first few days after her arrival, she is normal. Happy. Laughing….

(Wedding Album, Sc-2, p-14)

In the play the playwright has described sex, conjugal love, class, caste, family relationship and age related tensions, sacrifice and selfishness, commerce and chastity, authority and obedience as the integral part and  the narrative unity of Hindu marriages. Karnad is very satirical to Hindu way of life and sees it as cultural blind system. He undermines the religious liberties and may not stand the test of freedom of faith. It is the mandate to everyone that everyone is free to practice any system. His views weakens individual liberty and free will, it also encourages hoodlums. It is the right to choose a partner in any manner. He should have supported this tenet of personal liberty.

Karnad is very scandalous in his depiction of simple, safe, enjoyable and a very real event of a pending marriage in a middle-class, Hindu, Saraswat Brahmin family– the Nadkarnis. He tried to portray the concern for the safety of Hindu girls with vigilante groups and branded them as communal elements of Hinduism. This ugly portrayals can be compared to South Africa under apartheid. Karnad termed it as ‘cultural amnesia.’ With the presentation of ideological-charged mind of gender and body, sexuality, domestic tension and violence and other such radical themes and he find all at one place, ‘Hinduism.’

PRATIBHA: Let me put it this way. They may believe it, but they won’t like it. A girl from an educated middle-class family–a graduate–agrees to consider marrying a man whom she has never met. The boy turns up, all ready to jump to the altar, without having seen her. In this day and age.

ROHIT: They were not total strangers. I mean, they had exchanged video tapes. SMSed. And he belonged to our caste.

PRATIBHA: She had no boyfriends? no affairs?

ROHIT: No, no. She was a nice girl.

PRATIBHA: That is your definition of a ‘nice girl’ then?

ROHIT: Why not? She was a genuine innocent. No one stopped her for having boyfriends. I had a girlfriend. Catholic. No one minded.

(Wedding Album, Sc-1, p-9)

Girish Karnad has shown the Hindu marriages–a very different one from the real ones in life. He has shown marriages as abused relationships at all the levers, father abusing children, wives abused by husbands, raped, sexually abused, and or else dis-empowered women. His marriages are lately coined concept of ‘love Jihad’ or women in Muslim families.

The playwrights forgot that community  marriages must be celebrated not laughed. Families, grooms and brides are enthralled by their marriages. The blessed and dazzling couples are well protected by celebrity status and social respect. Influence by his ideology, he tried to demystify middle class South Indian Brahmin marriage but failed. He became confused with the institutions of marriage as a stage or narrative plot.

But his views are very different for inter-religion marriage. Hindu, Pratibha is married to a Muslim man, much older to her. But she is very happy with him. She never faces any problem. For the likes of Karnad, inter-religion marriages mean Hindu women marrying Muslim men. It is freedom to women. Types of Karnad see women as ‘hamaari bachchiyan..’ or tedious infantilised  those are in the grip of patriarchs if they follow their own religious and social practices. For them only Muslim man can give liberation and enlightenment from orthodox marauding ‘enemy’. The proponents of liberation and revolution cannot tolerate that love and surrender socially magical force across region, caste, community and even gender.

(Pratibha picks up her handbags.)

PRATIBHA: Rohit, I am forty. I am from Orissa. I came to Banglore for reasons of my own and build up my business. Three years ago, I married a man ten years my senior. A Muslim. I married him when the anti-Muslim riots were at their worst. Because he offered me affection and security.

(Pause)

There’s is nothing I don’t know about harassment.

(Sudden smile.)

You must let me know when Tapasya is back. You two must come and have dinner with Irfan and me. Bye.

(Wedding Album Sc-V, p-61.)

Perhaps this is the happiest description and most ideal situation in Wedding Album for Girish Karnad. Marriage choices are personnel decisions. Family institutions and customs do not destroy liberty. He painted such marriages as improper practices by Hindus to enslave girls. Families use fake claims to lure women. Very intentionally, Karnad located Wedding Album in the Nadkarnis’ living room. They plot is about the Hindu wedding, the bedroom is evidently gone. The playwright ignored the freedom verses the pressures of the traditions on the one side and partisan ideologically obsessed mind to impose a collective identity on individuals. Women’s empowerment is an vibrated mantra yet there’s organized denial to allow her to choose her partner. She has to suppress her feeling or sexuality.

MOTHER (from inside) : Oh, good you haven’t left.

(Enters)

Listen, I was kneading the dough and thinking. you have to buy the stamp paper, get Appa to write out an affidavit, then get it notarised–all those headaches. How long is it going to take?

ROHIT: God alone knows.

MOTHER: That’s why I am asking. Would it matter?

ROHIT: Would what matter?

MOTHER: If we left things as they are.

VIDULA: What do you mean, Ma?

MOTHER: All that extra running around. Talk of forgery and bribing. What for? All these day’s we didn’t know what was in the Corporation files. So why can’t we continue–with Ramdas’s name on the certificate?

VIDULA: Ma!

(Wedding Album , Sc-VI, p-51.)

Mother and Ramdas have hidden feeling for each other but they have to hide them. Even Ramdas mentioned his name in the birth certificate of his niece, Vidula, in place of her father. The reality about her biological father was known only either to mother or Ramdas. They must have drawn to each other but they have to suppress their feeling. They have no liberty to choose one’s own partners. According to Karnad, society should have no role who a person choose to love. If an person chooses to change his/her partner, for either love, sex or even playful reasons, social powers have no role in personal choice. There must be freedom and diversity in love. It is unrestricted by society, region, community and religion.

On the one side Girish Karnad is against the fat Hindu weddings and on the other side he is very critical to the identity system of ‘saat pheras– or seven circlings around the fore by bride and groom should not be forced. For Karnad such weddings are like: ‘Hum aapke hain koun?’

He laughs at bride’s bedazzle large number of unknown people with multiple weddings attires but no sexual satisfaction. For which she has to flirt after marriage with others, whenever she gets a chance. Grooms also struggling to make a grand entry but fail to satisfy his partner. families have to appease the wedding guests to get high cutoff marks.

(Vivan, aged thirteen, comes in, carrying a book)

—————————-

VIVAN: There is a letter for you.

HENA: A letter for me? In this book?

—————————–

VIVAN: I saw you yesterday. I immediately sat down and typed it out on my laptop. Very personal.

HEMA (still flabbergasted by the letter): But…but…my god! This is… you can’t…

VIVAN (showing her the book): I’ll finish this by tomorrow.

(Takes out another letter)

Until then, here. Anoth one. THis one is even more personal.

VIDULA:———–

‘Darling, you don’t know how I desire to crush you in my arms…”

HEMA (snatches the letter from her hand); Don’t!

—————————–

VIVAN: Go ahead, I’ll also tell her I love you. The moment I saw you the other day, I fell desperately in love. I want to die kissing you. I want to die with my hand inside your blouse…

—————

VIVAN: The touch of your hand fills me with ecstasy. I,m crazy about you.

(Wedding Album, Sc- II & IV, pp-17, 18, 19, 45.)

In the Wedding Album, Karnad pictures all her women characters like any other so called modern, confused, unhappy, sex starved Hindu girls. They lead a secret timid life. Wheather willingly of unwillingly submitting themselves to the disembodied voices in the dark world, or transmuting their guilt at being caught into hysterical rage, crying ‘sexual exploitation’ to make themselves victim or pious–but clever enough to find a resourceful Irfan, rich and flashy trader to make them enjoy their way through heightened desires. The preferred subjugation they seek in their secret, erotic world can well serve man, woman and marriage and to higher purpose.

VIDULA: Quite, Yamuna. They lived in a village. They were so oor that the daughter—Yamuna, came to Banglore looking for a job. And found a good one. Used to send a fair amount back home. Then Radhabai’s husband died and she too came to Banglore. Too k up a job as a cook with a family in Malleswaram. The day after her arrival, a massager turned up and escorted her to daughter’s house and what does she find? Her daughter is being maintained by a rich trader.

(Wedding Album, Sc-IV, p-92)

Hindus wedding is a blessing to so many people involved in arrangements and other works. Mehndi artists, beauticians, musicians, decorators, caterers and the band has been big ortunities in the band baaja baraat. The traditional ‘bidai’ ritual – or the bride’s farewell from her father’s home – is a very special ceremony in tears. The ‘joota chupai’ ritual – when the bride’s sister hide the groom’s shoes – is also very attractive ritual down the groom at heel.

One the one hand Karnad was very critical to the concept of big fat Hindu Wedding and on the other hand he was almost at ease in carrying the extramarital relations in the society. A natural question comes to mind that should we stop celebrating traditional marriage? Karnad left this to the readers to decide. All enjoy to dance and sing “Mere yaar ki shaadi hai.” Karnad shows  not merely intolerance but also ignorance about the great religious traditions.

Girish Karnad could not understand the Hindu way of life. For him love and marriage mean only physical and business like deal. Read any ancient Hindu scriptures like Vishnu Purana, Bhagavata Purana, Kama Sutra, Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda, Kalidasa, Bilhara, Bhartrihari, Bihari, Vidyapati, Chandidasa, and even Tulsidas where all describe the power of love and Kamadeva — and a number of ancient Hindu classics which celebrates ad adore desires with sensuousness throat has no parallels in world literature. Unfortunately Karnad failed to describe and understand this sensuousness or ‘shringar rasa’ in his the ‘Wedding Album.’

He was a silent supporter of western concept of sex without marriage and love. Rohit the main protagonist loves Catholic Christian girl, Isabel. Karnad could not gather courage to show the marriage of a South Indian Brahmin boy Rohit with a Catholic Christian girl. This would have clashed with his ideology. However, he has no inhabitation that Rohit still wants to meet her.

PRATIBHA:  You know Isabel has been in Banglore for the past six months. But you phoned her ten  days ago. And invited her home. To dinner. On the day your wife left for Hyderabad! You didn’t mention that you were alone at home. But she guessed. She knows you well, she says. Since then you have asked her again. Twice within ten days. In spite of her refusal. What’s she to make of it? You know she is vulnerable.

(Wedding Album, Sc-VI, p-61.)

However, right understanding is not everyone’s cup of tea. Then, they could take some time off from their useless ideological intolerance to try and appreciate the amazingly impartial view of love and life that Hinduism has always promote. In the Hinduism the four goals (purusharthas) of life are dharma, material well-being (artha), action (kama) and salvation (moksha).

The Thirukkural, the Tamil Veda, is divided into three parts, namely righteousness (aram), wealth (porul), and love (inbam). Hinduism is the greatest religion which mentions, as element of the highest objectives of life, legitimacy to the objective quest of aspiration, and celebrates its expression with an self-confidence.

In the ‘Wedding Album’ boy and girl both are almost coercion to marry the right. Karnad blamed it a Hindu civilization practice in their sleeve and called it heresies fate of Hindus.  He mocks it as the moveable, generational heterosexual Hindu family tradition  that marriage gives legitimacy. Karnad failed to understand the pious and important Hindu way of life.  Due to his pre-conceived notions he became just like porn Hindi writer Masta Ram.  His understanding of Hinduism is highly flawed like those people who describe Khajurah and Konarak and mis-understand the philosophy about the temples  adorned with stunning erotic sculpture as sex depiction. Entire world  including British rulers failed t read the mysticism and spiritualism hidden at Hinduism’s honest but sensible recognition of the sensual.

The modern thinkers demonize the Hindus as ‘fixed to vile, horrific beliefs and traditions – proscribed thoughts’; their world of obscurity was packed with ‘lust’; their culture had ‘ immoral codes’; their way of worship was ‘ sickening and even immoral’; and,  accused them f suffering from ‘unparalleled sexual  perversion’.  Even the Christian Literary Society in Madras  filed a case in 1862 against Krishna himself for cheering ‘adultery and fornication’. But the case was dismissed as the court could not see any merit  and evidence!

VOICE: First I’ll strip you. Then I’ll rape you.

VIDULA: I can’t wait. I can’t.

————————————-

VOICE: Now unbutton your blouse.

VIDULA: Not blouse. It’s called the kameez.

VOICE: I don’t care. Just take it off.

VIDULA ( mimes the moves to get the timing right) I have.

VOICE: Now the bra.

—————-

VOICE: You are bare bodied, baby?

VIDULA: Yes.

VOICE: Caress for me.

————-

VOICE: Now take off your skirt.

VIDULA: Not skirt. Trousers. Salwar.

VOICE: Don’t give me the ails, darkie. Just take them off.

((Wedding Album, Sc-VI, pp-65-66.)

The missionaries, intellectuals and Karnad himself were ignorant opinion of Hinduism’s enlightened theories of kama and surrender as element of a insightful study of the highest spiritual wisdom and truth.  Surprisingly, in a really paradoxical twist, the Hindu ultra-left, parroting the reforms of ignorant western   morality, is finding fault, and cheering about western ignorance certainly makes very bizarre bedfellows!

Here it would be in the fitness f things to mention the Hindu Upanishads story of Gargi, who was firm in her bold debate with great Hindu sage Yagnavalkya, and Maitreyi who held her own views about her intricacies of metaphysics of relationship  with her husband. Ubhaya Bharti questioned the great Adi Shankaracharya on the ways of making love. Mirabai, Andal, and Karaikkal Ammaiyaar of the bhakti period followed their own path of total surrender oblivious of all usual traditions.

The brilliant Mahadeviyakka in the 12th century renounced her husband and shunned her clothes and covered herby  tresses. She had a incredible discourse based on equality with Basavanna and Allama Prabhu, saints of popular Virashaiva Lingayat society.

Karnad  defamed Hindu women, with the clear aim of spreading anti-Hindu views. The trouble with the ultra-left is that its hostility is in contrary proportion to its ignorance. These self-anointed  revolutionaries of reforms are trying to make it run on ideological diktats. This kind of degradation of Hinduism in general and Brahmins in particular, , and it’s nuanced boldness of thought, is not at all intellectualism and is like the Turkic invasion or the British colonialism. .

1- Wedding Album, Girish Karnad, Oxford University Press, New-Delhi, 2009.

2-  Research Journal of English Language and Literature (RJELAL), http://www.rjelal.com; com ISSN:2395-2636 (P); 2321-3108(O) Vol.6.Issue 4. 2018 (Oct-Dec) 314,  Dr.VENKATA RAMANI CHALLA, ‘REFLECTION OF MODERNITY IN GIRISH KARNAD’S “THE WEDDING ALBUM”.

3-Lapis Lazuli, (LLILJ), Vol.2/ NO.2/, Autumn 2012, URL of the Issue: http://pintersociety.com/vol-2-issue-2autumn-2012/, URL of the article: http://pintersociety.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/ Sangeeta –G-Avachar-14.pdf © www.pintersociety.com 1, ‘Exploring Girish Karnad’s Wedding Album as a Blend of Anxieties and Resentments Deep Rooted in Indian Marriage Institution,’ Sangeeta G. Avachar. (google)

 

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