Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Typical Indian Happy Ending

No. This is not one of those so called ‘modern’, ‘westernized’, young Indians reveling in fashionable self-deprecatory talk. It’s an understanding, an explanation of an Indian pattern often mocked at.

Among other things, the book ‘Discovery of India’ discusses art – music, painting, poetry, literature and drama – that developed in different nations, races and civilizations.
Although there was some form of art everywhere, Greece and India seem to have produced copious amounts of significant art. There are some inevitable but interesting comparisons.
One comparison was that between Greek and Indian Drama. Indian drama essentially meant Sanskrit Drama those days.
The author observes that there are powerful tragedies in Greek drama. But there is no tragedy in Sanskrit drama. I have studied Sanskrit in school and college and in the course of my study I have come across several plays – Abhijnyana Shakuntala, Mritchhakatika, Swapna Vasavadatta among others. I have read the great Indian epics. But I never noticed this characteristic feature!
Only when I read this book, it struck me – ‘Oh yes!, there is no tragedy in Sanskrit Drama’!

This I believe was in keeping with the Indian spirit.
Indians have always had unwavering faith in the doctrine of Karma. Even today, Karma is a strongly believed theory in India. Good begets good and evil begets evil. It’s a doctrine above and beyond questioning, above and beyond verification. It governed most of morality and ethics that prevailed in the ancient Indian society. It was a sort of paradigm in which people lived.

Now, what is a tragedy? A bad thing happening to a good fellow. Isn’t it?
And this is not in keeping with the principle of Karma and people would not be able to identify with it or reconcile with the idea. A bad thing happening to a good fellow was simply not acceptable to them. A good thing happening to a bad fellow was equally unpalatable.
True, in the Ramayana, Rama is exiled to the forest, his consort is kidnapped by Ravana, but in the end he triumphs and returns victorious. In the Mahabharata, the protagonists, the Pandavas were humiliated by the Kauravas (antagonists), they lost their kingdom, spent 13 years in the forest but in the end, they won.
So tragic events are permissible in intermediate stages but in the end, the good fellow has to be happy. The whole thing has to make sense, meaning, it has to be in keeping with the doctrine of Karma.

All of modern Indian drama and Indian cinema directly or indirectly derive from Sanskrit drama. Therefore it has been a pattern in most Indian movies that the hero wins in the end always, no matter how improbable his winning may be, no matter how impossible his situation.
Nowadays, of course things are changing and we have heroes with imperfect character and villains whose actions, the movie attempts to justify. We do have tragedies and there isn’t necessarily an explanation. But the happy ending pattern is always mocked at.

Now that I know where the pattern comes from, I UNDERSTAND. It does continue to seem funny, but it has ceased to be ridiculous.

Just thought I would share this all with you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

No doubt a good blog, but I would like to clarify somethings. First of all, Indian version of tragedy is something totally different from Europeans, Greeks, et al. We do not see the individual in deciding it as tragedy. Indian values always teach a wholistic view, wherein only bad things happening in the bigger picture is considered a tragedy, ie, society, country, etc. For instance, take Bhishma's life, which according to Greeks or others was a tragedy but we do not. More examples may be Pandu, Kunti, and even Pandavas and Draupadi losing all their children except one, etc. But the lives of these are not considered so because they did not make it so. For heroes being imperfect, nobody in our epics is projected as perfect except for Krishna, Rama, etc, which are considered to be incarnations of the Lord himself. If you go through the epics properly each and everyone is guilty of committing some mistake. So, I would like to conclude this rather lengthy comment by saying Indian values teach us to see the bigger picture and sacrifice individual interests even if it is supposed to be a tragedy. No hard feelings please.......