Ever came across, a book, a play or a novel called perennial, because it is relatable even after years of it being written and published? One such is the play, A Heap of Broken Images by Girish Karnad. Karnad was initially known for his retelling of myths and history in order to deal with contemporary issues. All of that changed with his 2005 Kannada play, Odakalu Bimba, which was later translated to A Heap of Broken Images. It was his way of bringing into the picture that problems existed because of the disparities between English and vernacular languages. But he doesn’t just stop there, he brings to light the effects of the images we portray. The play was appreciated for its depth of understanding personality and the human mind in an article featured in the official journal of Psychologist Association, regarding the complexities of human mind and personality.
The title was initially supposed to be Macaulay’s Children, which was later changed to A Heap Of Broken Images. The inspiration was taken from T. S. Elliot’s Wasteland, so that it reaches to the general public rather than having only a literary appeal. The purpose of it is to reach the people, where the play or even the protagonist was at times used as the mouthpiece of author. Manjula Nayak is the main character and since it is a mono-drama, it is the only character that comes directly in contact with the audience.
It all begins with an interview of Manjula, talking about her new novel, The River Has No Memories and about its release and reception. She is a Kannada short story writer, who got a mixed response for her English novel. When she records her speech, to be aired, you find the image of Manjula to be idealistic and very balanced. You find a woman, strong, confident and bold, who wasn’t afraid to upset others, with her opinions. She was also portrayed as someone who had this strong emotional bond with her sister Malini Nayak, and also a very comforting relationship with her husband. But as we move further, we realize the self she portrayed, was just the one she wanted everyone else to see, but when in reality she was clogged by this sense of abandonment from her parents, where she felt that her sister was stealing her parent’s love and attention, as her sister was specially-abled. From that insecurity and negligence, sprung her lifelong envy for her sister, which only kept increasing, as time passes by.
This is very similar to how our world works these days. The images we portray to the world, especially through social media, are completely different from the existing realities, which only creates unrealistic expectations which further pushes individuals to attain the lifestyle that was captured in an image, which has modifications and filters on it. The play as uses the image on the TV screen to be symbolic to Manjula’s conscience, which very ironically where most of the unrealistic images of ourselves which constantly persists to ensure that our true selves don’t surface to our screen’s surface.
Apart from this, the play focuses on the effects of repressing our feelings and motives, where strong emotions of envy and anger are repressed so as to maintain and present ourselves, which ultimately strips us of ourselves and our well-being. It leads to identity crisis, where the images we show ourselves, our loved ones and the world, collides and breaks. The idea here isn’t to dive into showing ourselves in our very sense to everyone, but to balance it out, while making sure to acknowledge and understand what you are feeling, and working to resolve it. The act of repression doesn’t get us anywhere but to a heap of broken images, and that can act as one of the interpretations of the text. But not to forget that it clearly shows the problem revolving around writing in English as well as any vernacular language. It shows the type of double standards that exists in the literary community with regard to writing in English and the lack of recognition and financial gain the vernacular writers are denied. It also emphasises on the power that English still holds over other languages, where the essence of colonial language suppression, still widely exists, not just in our country but around the globe.
It is, hence, a play that encompasses not one issue, but multiple, each one of which is relatable and understandable and which each one of us have had to face or sometimes are a part of the issue itself. It is a play written in 2005, which is still relatable almost 15 years later.
Picture Courtesy- The Hindu