SOCIAL ISSUES IN THE PLAYS OF MAHESH DATTANI The plays of Mahesh Dattani emerged as -fresh arrival’ in the domain of Indian English drama in the last decade of the twentieth century. His plays deal with contemporary issues. They are plays of today sometimes as actual as to cause controversy, but at the same time they are plays which embody many of the classic concerns of world drama. I have selected -Tara’, Seven Steps Around the Fire, on a Muggy Night in Mumbai -Bravely Fought the Queen’ and -Final solutions,’ to study the contemporary values in these plays. 1.2 : JUSTIFICATION Dattani’s plays have a universal appeal. They can be staged anywhere in the world, they would draw full attention of the audience. Dattani moulds his subject in such a way that it is both topical as well as appealing. His plays speak across linguistic and cultural barriers. Dattani makes an abundant use of Indian mythology, rituals and traditions and contemporary problems, India is beset with but he elevates these themes to a higher level, touching the human chords that emanate love, happiness, sexual fulfilment and problem of identity. Though he lives in Karnataka, he writes about the whole nation of India, about the whole world he lives in. It is in the fitness of things that we must make an attempt at evaluating the play wright’s thematic concerns as well as his exploration of, and experimentation with stage. 1.3 : MAHESH DATTANI : HIS LITERARY ACHIEVEMENTS Mahesh Dattani was born in Bangalore on August, 7, 1958. He is the famous Indian English dramatist. He took admission in Baldwin’s High School and St. Joseph’s college of Arts and Science, Bangalore. He is a graduate in History, Economics and Political Science. He is a Postgraduate in Marketing and Advertising Management. He worked as a copy writer in an advertising firm and later on with his father in the family business. Dattani’s theater group-Play pen was formed in 1984. He made his directional debut with Mango Souffle. He has directed many plays for them ranging from classical Greek to contemporary works. Over a carrier spanning twenty five years he has written radio plays for the BBC and the film script of Ek Alag Mousam. Plays- (i) Tara (ii) On a Muggy Night in Mumbai (iii) Where There’s a Will (iv) Dance like a Man (v) Bravely Fought the Queen (vi) Final solutions. Mahesh Dattani received the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award for his contribution to Indian Drama in 1998. The International Herald Tribune while praising Mahesh Dattani praised him as –One of Indian’s best and most serious contemporary play wrights writing in English.” Mahesh Dattani is India’s first play-wright to be awarded the -Sahitya Akadami Award’ for his contribution to the world of drama. Alyque Padamsee calls him one of the most serious contemporary play wrights. There are two published texts of Dattani’s plays-one a collection of plays while the other one is in parts. Recently his plays have been collected in a single volume called -Collected Plays’ published by Penguin. Alyque Padamee says, –At last we have a play wright who gives sixty million English speaking Indians an identity.” Mahesh Dattani is one of the famous Indian-English dramatists. He has successfully launched the Indian theater in English. In many of his plays, he deals with various issues like homosexuality, gender discrimination, communalism and child sexual abuse. In an interview -Personal Agenda’ Published in Branch on March 21, 2004 Dattani said, –The love of my life is drama and I want to write more plays.” His most distinguishing quality is wide range of themes that he deals with in his writings. Dattani’s plays are written for the stage. It is the visual quality and dramatic effect which are of paramount importance. Dattani shapes his subject in such a way that is both-topical as well as appealing. Alyque Padamsee assisted Mahesh Dattani in building his self-esteem and helped him in securing regular audience for his plays. As Mahesh Dattani points out in his preface –Alyaque believed in my work even before I believed in it myself. He gave me courage to call myself a professional playwright and director. In 1998, Dattani won the Sahitya Akademi Award for his book of plays. Final solutions and other plays were published by East-West Books, Chennai. According to the Sahitya Akademi Award, –(Dattani’s work) probes tangled attitudes in contemporary India towards communal differences, consumerism and genera brilliant contribution to Indian drama in English.” His plays deal with religious tension, sexuality and gender issue. Alyque Padamsee calls him one of the –most serious contemporary playwrights” Dattani takes issues that afflict societies the world over. He has chronicled the social victim and the follies, foibles and prejudices of Indian society. Some of Dattani’s plays are eloquent defences of society’s out casts and would be rebels. These plays include -On a Muggy Night in Mumbai,’ a compassionate look at the life and tensions of a homosexual community tricked away in Mumbai. -Both On a Muggy Night in Mumbai’ and -Do the Needful’ are probably the first Indian plays to boldly deal with the subject of homosexuality. The play -Final Solutions’ is about partition. It reveals how the engendered suspicion only deepens from generation to generation. The plays of Mahesh Dattani emerged as -fresh arrival’ in the domain of Indian English drama in the last decade of the 20th century. The plays have a great -contemporary value.’ According to John Mc Rae. –They are plays of today, sometimes as actual as to cause controversy, but at the same time, they are plays which embody many of the classic cancens of world drama.” Mahesh Dattani’s plays are revelatory in nature. If, in -Where There’s a will,’ it is the ghost not of Hasmukh Mehta but of his father that has to be recognised in -Dance like a Man’. In -Bravely Fought the Queen,’ it is a host of issues that have to be revealed and faced from the homosexuality of certain characters. Dattani shows us the hollowness of middle class lives. His plays explore what lies below the facades characters and families front up to fool the world. The family in Dattani stands for society at large. Dattani’s characters search for security and acceptance, to be true to themselves. In Dattani’s world the socialisation process initiated in the family unit has its aim the stunted growth of a bousaitres. The prominent theme of Mahesh Dattani’s later plays is homosexuality. Homosexuality is dealt with in -Bravely Fought the Queen’, -Where There’s a will,’ and – Dance Like a Man.’ Another important theme of Mahesh Dattanis’s plays in Gender Identity. -Bravely Fought the Queen’ foregrounds this whole issue with its very title. Dattai raises these and a number of other questions regarding gender and social stratification and hierarchy and sexuality. The most significant feature of Dattani is, perhaps his use of langauge. The note to his very first play, -Where There’s Will’ reads as follows. -Should the play be need in classrooms, I sincerely wish that English language teachers will not dismiss my syntax as bad English’ or worse still as incorrect, while knowledge of the rules of grammar is important, the richness and variety of the spoken word is a study in itself.” The past and the present both co-exist, and while the past has fashioned the present, the present helps the characters to re-read the past. Dattani’s stage techniques are aimed at making the audience intimate with the life of a family, its trials and trilantations and debilitating secrets. Dattani exercises great care in ensuring through his detailed stage direction that reader and potential directors understand all this. This division of the stage allows clearly demarcated space for certain characters, or time periods, as well as for different locales. C.K. Meena says, in an article on Dattani, –Unmasking the Middle class : The Drama of Mahesh Dattani” (Indian Review of Books, Vol., N. 6 1999), that this distribution of –the action among different levels on stage not only makes his plays visually exciting landmark but more at a snappy pace.” Mahesh Dattani defends his use of English as spoken by people in India and also goes on to make another serious statement. He says that his characters –would love to speak in Gujarati” and his challenge as a writer is to convey their Gujaratiness without distortion in English. Dattani’s characters speak the kind of English that most middle class Indians do. He also uses Indian English with great confidence and captures the rhythms of the spoken English. 1.4 : RESEARCH METHODOLOGY I have resolved to do research on the dramas of Mahesh Dattani : -Tara’, -Bravely fought the Queen’, -Final solutions’, -on a Muggy Night in Mumbai’ and -Seven steps Around The Fire.’ I shall take recourse to the following methods. 1. The study of various literary journals published in India and abroad incorporated in the corpus of the bibliography. 2. The study of various News-Papers in English in India and Abroad. 3. The analysis of each drama after close scrutiny.?