Thespian in Conversation: Mahendra Malangia
A man who leaves no room to categorization either in life or passion though indeed a forerunner in Maithili theatre, Mahendra Malangia has been appearing on literary and performing arena like a sturdy masseur with overarching effects. Full of reappraising inflections but considerably distant from opulent elitist biases, this living legend has expedious ploy for legging up in greed lock. I have privilege to know him personally since the year 1997, when he had two days grand performance at my place in Uren/Madhubani…moreover, being an avid reader and literary enthusiast, I have been getting keepsake from him in terms of his books and reading jottings in manuscript. Recently we had a detailed talk on many pertinent issues, which would come during this interview…
Atul K Thakur: – It’s always pleasure to be with you Sir, I would like to prolong our conversation from scratch, I mean wish to have some insights on your retro life?
Mahendra Malangia: – I was born on 20th January 1946, a year before the Indian independence in village Malangia (then in Darbhanga district, since 1973 in Madhubani). I went to prestigious Suri High School (G.M.S.S High School) and later to R.K.College (Madhubani), both were the restless institution then under energetic confluence from youths with taste in different fields. From college life, my inclination grew overtly for plays/drama, here I acted first time in “Himalaya ki Putri” under the direction of Ram Vilas Karak…incidentally it didn’t took off in bright mode because my arguing for some crucial snags related to the direction. Unfortunately, the director of that play couldn’t realize it effectively. With growing interest in Maithili plays, I couldn’t restrain my temptation of writing, which finally shaped and grew by contributing in then leading Maithili weekly, “Mithila Mihir” in 1960’s.
After few public appearances and published pieces, I received proper accolades that further interestingly pushed me to add “Malangia” instead of my surname after my primary name; because in those days, my namesakes used to be famous singer, poet etc. After a cut off from established belief in contemporary trend of direction, I left the active acting in midway for solely turned to experiment with direction. With sporadic appearances in acting and complete directional instincts, I successfully staged “Basat”,”Ugna”,’Chinni’k Laddu” (written by Ishnath Jha)-those performances secured early positive impressions and journey begins from there…
Atul K Thakur:- You have spent your all professional years henceforth in Nepal doing government service as a very respected teacher near the great cultural region of Janakpur…how this activist teacher within you shaped after the initial flip-flop in Indian side?
Mahendra Malangia:-My family centric or better say moral centric play “Birju,Biltu aa Babu” was published in the Mithila Mihir that given me immense pleasure and confidence to work ahead with my progressive beliefs. It was boosting for me to see such overwhelming response for progressive end that marked with the judicious verdict of a father. Lead protagonist lagging behind in the material world with his sacrifices for building the fortune of his brother (who now found himself in different class with agnostic views for moral construct), finally get the deserved place…such scene were quite rampant in Mithila but the end reflected an ideal moral position in family.
In late nineteen sixties, “Laxman Rekha” was published in the Mithila Mihir –this was based on the widow remarriage as its central theme; then it used to be a curse in conservative households. Leading Communist leader, Chaturanan Mishra has written a very remarkable novel “Kala”on same the same deform practices much before me, I also had great rapport with legendary Communist leader from Madhubani, Bhogendra Jha and Shiv Chandra Jha (an accomplished economist, Socialist parliamentarian and also my villager), these all made positive impact on my thinking process for curbing the existing unfortunate socio-cultural practices. So, for a parallel career in the drama, I have chosen the job of teacher with modest income in Nepal over the lucrative job at Shiva Medical Company in Kanpur after a brief stint there. In Janakpur/Nepal, I assimilated with the students and local communities- writing has been moving relentlessly side-by-side.
Atul K Thakur:- One of my initial impressions on you were come with your “Daura Suruwal “and Nepali cap clad photos in Mithila Mihir weekly. I incidentally read many of them, thanks to rich intellectual wardrobe of my family…how was your early experiences in Nepal?
Mahendra Malangia:-As you know, there is prevalence of identical Maithil lifestyle and language in Madhesh region of Nepal ,So on the cultural front, it was alright but politically Nepal was running with charged moments out of radical moves by King Mahendra. He laid strong emphasis on Panchayat System that not worked out but he became able to succeed with the creation of national identity with making compulsory use of Nepali cap and national dress. So, my early photographs were complying (with smile) to such order. Initially, I also faced rejection of manuscripts but once published from Mithila Mihir with my story, “Totaal tagak ekta oor”, my all rejected manuscripts started getting due place. Success in writing and close affiliations with the students and local folk naturally endowed me with great respect and acceptance for efforts.
Atul k Thakur: – Please tell us about your most remarkable play “Okra Aangnak Barahmasha, in my view-this is the ever best socio-economic narration of Mithila on stage. Please also share with us flavours of your other incessant meticulous works as well?
Mahendra Malangia:-Thanks for this sensible compliment. Yes, this play satisfies me most when I see things in retrospect…this plays signify the all twelve seasons with a metaphor put through folk songs. At center stage, a socio-economically deprived family appears with its misfortune; things have delineated with wider exposure to the ongoing systemic flaws and uneven making of nation. Many others before me and after written on this, but within the rural scene, there are few such examples in the ambit of theatre. I can’t remember exactly number of its stage performance…I would be always thankful for my spectator who awards me their whole lot of blessings.
Even today, we remember those special time of our creativity…lost world of Mullar in search of survival, alienation of his son from familiar ground, his wayward roving to east side in Morang/Nepal and insensitive response of system, which recently came into the place with Nehruvian vision utterly failed to construct basic human conditions for most of its citizens. Over the years, conditions have improved slightly but it’s still away from early conceived goal of Indian democracy, which is matter of grave concern. I tried to cover people’s life in their own easy way; “Chhutha Ghailh”which is based on a Maithili folklore backs the women’s emancipation. “Push Jaar ki Magh Jaar” was based on Pokhra tragedy (harassment of few local families by the involvement of some member of Nepal’s royal family)…much before the Monarchy was faded from the scene; I made my opinion on its futility as an institution. It presents the disillusionment of common men from existing political functioning.
Atul K Thakur:- Your experiment with “Saadhu Bhasha” in unusual mixed form, somewhere presents cocktail of Maithili, Awadhi, Hindi and bizarre English used to be popular among the spiritual dwellers of Janakpur, give us some clue how you express serious stuffs in lighter presentation?
Mahendra Malangia: – (With smile…), that started with Kathak Lok (1980-81)-another play on socio-economic degeneration. It proliferated with “Original Kaam”; a play with serious message albeit lighter in presentation. I perceive dowry as socio-ethical evil, I tried to pacify this oppressive tradition in “O Khali Munh Takait Chhai”. In “Gaam nai Sutaiyai”, unemployment is central debate which takes adequate note of falling political ethics. Here desperation among the mass folks have shown as leverage for political class; ‘Deh par Kothi Khasha diya” is outspoken tell on consistently dwindling social cohesion, here I tried to show the plights of a pale couple in mainframe. Such clumsy tendencies touched me as an individual as well…so; feelings appeared with the words, which at large try to change the state of affairs with pervasive inferences of social changes from whole creative construct.
Atul K Thakur: – You have never known for catty exchange of words, I mean you have an impressive track of maintaining balance ties with your contemporary and even younger artists, do you think, is this expedient practice?
Mahendra Malangia: – Yes, it helped me in my long creative voyage, I always feel comfortable in the company of peoples. Only I have disenchantment with the critics without zest for observation or reading, for an instance, following the glorious revolution in 1688 (Europe); workers were forced for 12hour schedule at work that made them alien from their conventional socio-cultural fabric. Towards similar situation, I tried to focus in my work-“Okar Aangnak Barah Masa”, protagonist faced identical ire but for actual feelings, one needs to have the vision to see the both side of history. Uday Narayan Singh”Naciketa”, Sudhanshu Sekhar Chaudhary, Gunanath Jha,Kunal Jee and some more have done remarkable work in Maithili theatre…in younger generation, writing and direction of Ramesh Ranjan (written a memorable play, Hamra Nepal Chahi?)is noticeable, so is the commitment in direction and acting of Sunil Jha, Ram Narayan Thakur ,Ravindra Jha and Prakash Jha (Maithili Lok Rang)-works of these young thespians are worth of emphatic admiration, they are doing wonderful with great persistence for learning. I wrote twenty-six short plays, 14-15 Drama, 11 Radio play and more than 20 street plays besides sporadic articles, memoir, essays, hoping much more from the successive generations.
Atul K Thakur: – You have been an avid reader; here I can see a lot of books on history of medieval Mithila and also some modern pertinent proof, what’s your further project?
Mahendra Malangia: – Presently I am working for a book on “Varnaratnakar” (by Jyotireshwar Thakur, 14th century AD), besides in the series of adopting modern authors’ stories for stage, I have completed “Paanch Patra” (Harimohan Jha) and “Vilap” (Baidya Nath Mishra “Yatri”)–these all came on stage in Delhi and received satisfactory attention from all corner. Now I am looking forward to work on Surendra Nath Jha”Suman” , Dhumketu and Jeevkant-presently contemplating ways to reinterpret theirs original text for stage performance. I have spent many years in the close company of Dhumketu in Janakpur, so has privilege to know him personally as well as through his remarkable works in Maithili literature.
Over the years, I have worked to form institutions, in Janakpur, I founded Mithila Natyakala Parishad (MINAP), in Delhi (Maithili Lok Rang)-both these institutions are working very well for the revival of Maithili drama and folk culture. Prakash Jha (Maithili Lok Rang) has been consistently doing well to establish Maithili theatre in the India’s national mainstream. His efforts have backed the Maithili theatre to secure a place at the cosmopolitan junctures. Not surprising today if Maithili plays are frequent at the major centres of Delhi and outside through the good works of Maithili Lok Rang (Mailorang)-now it has own repertory, supported by the government of India. So, things are indeed promising ahead with the determined constructive efforts of activist artists like Prakash Jha and his team. Younger generations are now quite accountable for their cultural routes; it was unlikely ten-fifteen years back, so this is a welcome change which would sure help in the cultural continuity in both side of the Mithila region. So, working on history now giving me greater sense, I would try best to contribute more for Maithili and lastly for Indian and Nepali theatres.
Atul K Thakur: – It’s always nice talking to you Sir, hoping best for your further deliberations and fine time in the world of letters…
Mahendra Malangia: – Thanks Atul. For me too, it’s rewarding to be in your company…very best to you too…
Atul Kumar Thakur