Passionate Refrains: The Theatricality of Urdu on the Parsi Stage
from 16:00 to 18:00
|Where||Seminar Room, CSDS|
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Prof. Kathryn Hansen, from the University of Texas will deliver a talk on Passionate Refrains: The Theatricality of Urdu on the Parsi Stage
Venue: Seminar Room- CSDS
Date: 18 March 2010
Time: 4:00 pm
Passionate Refrains: The Theatricality of Urdu on the Parsi Stage:
The Parsi theatre contributed to the development of Indian cinema in textual legacies of story and theme, genre and star roles. It also supplied technical expertise, personnel, and capital vital to the new industry. This paper considers another aspect of the Parsi theatre connection: the stylized structures of language, thought, and feeling associated with the Urdu language. Beginning with the popular pageant, the Indar Sabha, Parsi theatrical companies embraced the poetics of the Urdu ghazal with its declarations of ishq (passion) and recurring radifs (refrains). Why did Urdu win out over English and Gujarati as the dominant language of the then Bombay-based theatre? The analysis traces the contribution of Urdu munshis (playwrights), who together with their more illustrious actor-manager employers, co-created a distinctive Parsi-Urdu theatrical style. The performance of Urdu poetry together with Hindustani music and dance is seen as enhancing the literary appeal and musicality of new dramas, imparting a commercial advantage. Moreover, changes in playhouse design and the conventions of melodrama called for a forceful, rhythmic style of delivery, for which actors trained in Urdu were well-suited. The paper includes a case study of Agha Hashr Kashmiri, author of countless dramas and screeplays, focusing on his historical allegory, Yahudi ki Larki. A clip from the 1955 film version will be shown to illustrate the histrionic style of the great actor, Sohrab Modi.
Kathryn Hansen is professor at the Department of Asian Studies, University of Texas, Austin.
Prof. Hansen earned her Ph.D. in South Asian Studies (Hindi/Urdu) from the University of California, Berkeley. Her areas of specialization are South Asian languages and literatures; folk and classical performance of music and dance in South Asia and its diaspora; history of theatrical practices in India; early Indian film history; feminist theory, gender and spectatorship. Currently she is involved with four research projects, namely:
Theatrical Memoirs: Translation of Life Narratives from the Parsi Theatre
Theatre and the Creation of New National Cultures: The Parsi Theatre and Its Asian Offshoots
The Mythological Genre in Indian Theatre and Early Cinema
Melodrama and the Parsi Theatre
Prof. Hansen’s recent significant publications are:
2009 "Staging Composite Culture: Nautanki and Parsi Theatre in Recent Revivals," South Asia Research, 29(2): 151-68.
2006 “Ritual Enactments in a Hindi ‘Mythological’: Betab’s Mahabharat in the Parsi Theatre,” in Economic and Political Weekly of India (Mumbai), December 2, 2006, 4985-4991.
2005 A Wilderness of Possibilities: Urdu Studies in Transnational Perspective, edited and introduced by Kathryn Hansen and David Lelyveld. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
2005 Somnath Gupt, The Parsi Theatre: Its Origins and Development, translated and edited by Kathryn Hansen. Calcutta: Seagull Books.