Girish Karnad’s use of folk forms is neither casual nor incidental. In his Hayavadana, he has made innovative experiment to offer a new direction to modern theatre. The dramatist has proved that the traditional forms need not be treated as precious artifacts, but can be adapted to treat modern themes suitable for the urban audience. This paper is an attempt to portray how Karnad used the ancient story to explore the theme of human identity in a world of tangled relationships and a struggle for perfection.
Girish Karnad, in Hayavadana, which won the Natya Sangh Best Play Award in 1971, gives expression to Indian imagination in its richest colours and profound meanings. As a significant mark of achievement Karnad makes bold innovations, fruitful experiments and new directions in the history of Indian drama. In Hayavadana, Karnad combines the western techniques with Indian folk psyche, socio-cultural and political reality. The entire play is cast in the form of traditional Indian folk drama, which took several features of ancient Sanskrit drama. Karnad in Hayavadana strikes a significant note by exploring the dramatic potential of the ancient Indian myths, legends and folk traditions.
Girish Karnad’s Hayavadana is based on Thomas Mann’s story entitled ‘Transposed Heads’, which in turn is based on one of the versions of the story in vetal panchavimshati. (The plays of Girish Karnad: The Development of Girish Karnad as a dramatist) But Karnad draws heavily on Thomas Mann’s story. In Hayavadana, Karnad wants to suggest to us that for us king Vikram’s solution does not solve the problem. In fact the real problem begins when it appears to be solved. That could be the reason why he dropped the version of vetal panchavimshati, which had the ‘incest’ themes. At the same time he makes significant departures from Thomas Mann’s story too. The sub-plot of Hayavadana is entirely different from Karnad’s invention. In the play the stories of the sub-plot throughout supports the main plot. Hayavadana is an enigmatic play. Kirtinath Kurkkoti says, ‘Karnad’s play poses a different problem, that of human identity in a world of tangled relationships’ (Contemporary Indian Drama 53). Another critic U. R. Anantha Murthy in his A Note of Karnad’s Hayavadana, comments about theme like incompleteness in a comic mode.’ A few paragraphs later he says, ‘The play tries to create an illusion in us that the head determines the being of man’ (56).
At the same time Shubhangi says that ‘completeness is a humanly impossible ideal as suggested first in the story of Hayavadana and later in the transposition of head. Finally he achieves its aesthetic goal’ (The development of Girish Karnad as a Dramatist: Hayavadana). Anantha Murthy points out that Devadatta is the least ‘individuated’ character. But this is explicable in terms of the thematic design of the play. (A Note on Karnad’s Hayavadana. Karnad Girish, three plays Nagamandala Hayavadana, Tughlaq 93) Veena Noble Dass observes. ‘His agony is the agony of the artist who is deeply aware of the sterility and horror that is life’ (Three Plays of Girish Karnad, 64). In Hayavadana, as in Shankuntalam and Mrichhakatikam the description of Padmini’s affinity with nature resonates with erotic emotion. Hayavadana in exploring the realm of love, Erotic man – woman, Male bonding, Parent- child, offers us insight into the desires, hopes, fulfilment and frustration it breeds. Karnad’s Bhagavata is the mediator. He fulfils many roles in the play from being the key to the play and a detached observer to the confidante of the heroine. The speeches of Bhagavata are resonant with image making that at the outset build upon the stage of Hayavadana invokes a representational mode of projecting female body as a sexualized object. Padmini’s presentation is through her changing...