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

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The Cracked Mirror

Ashok Mitra The Mirror of Class: Essays on Bengali Theatre by Himani Bannerji; Papyrus, Calcutta, 1998; pp 240, Rs 200.
IT would be an outrageous proposition to suggest that the Bengali theatre the Left version of it is as good as dead. True, it is currently in the throes of a major crisis, which cannot however be analysed in terms of any arid series of comparative statistics, or by reference to developments elsewhere in the country. The Bengali stage has to be judged in terms of its own history. The amazing transformation from a situation of dazzling sunshine to a setting sun milieu, that has come about within the space of a couple of decades, is without question mind- boggling: the briskness around Calcutta's Rabindra Sadan complex is neither here nor there, the overarching impression it still provides is of a ritual to be gone through, the ritual of asymptotic surcease. So-called Leftist influence in the sphere of culture and the arts is on a fast declining trajectory. There is little point in heaping the blame for this turn of events on the Left Front administration in the state. The international brotherhood of working class is perhaps the most global of ideologies that has emerged since civilisation's early days. The strides in class awareness and class analysis during the middle decades of the 20th century, cutting across the barrier of continents, were in fact far, far more dramatic in their sweep than the post-cold- war globalisation of capitalism. The abrupt collapse of the Soviet Union and the massive demoralisation that followed amongst the Left in country after country, particularly in the third world, is a phenomenon of epochal significance. The east European disaster was not the surcease of the framework of a political system alone. It also implied the devaluation of the magnificent social dynamics Marx and Engels, later supplemented by Lenin, built brick by brick. That lodestar they foisted on the firmament of imagination of men and women was the common source of inspiration for ideologues all over the world. Especially in countries emerging out of the colonial nightmare, young cadres who had been all agog at the prospect of their active engagement in the praxis of popular democratic revolutions. Once the Soviet State withered away for altogether wrong reasons, their experiments too with the modalities of proletcult suddenly seemed to be bereft of any meaningful context.

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