Ramesh Prasad Panigrahi Menu
Critique of various forces

References/ Academic Studies on Ramesh P. Panigrahi

Note: The plays of Ramesh Prasad Panigrahi were first included in the University curricula in 1968. His plays were studied first in the graduate courses and later in postgraduate courses in all the universities that teach Odia literature: Berhampur University, Sambalpur University, Utkal University, Shantiniketan University,West Bengal, Ravenshaw University, Cuttack and in autonomous colleges like Rama Devi (Autonomous) College, Bhubaneswar and B.J.B.(Autonomous)College, Bhubaneswar. His plays are performed in Hindi and Bengali translation at Delhi and in Kalyani, (West Bengal), Kolkata and on different cultural events of West Bengal. Canmass, a reputed Theatre Organization from Paradip, Odisha had organized a National Theatre Festival of his plays from 18-03-2014 to 24-03-2014. Hereunder is given a bibliographic account of the research works done on his works.

1.Natyakar Ramesh Panigrahi: Sristi-O-Srasta, Ed.Prof. Krishna Chandra Pradhan & Dr. Bayamanu Churchi, Satyanarayan Book Store, Binodbihari, Cuttack-2, Odisha, 2013

2.Dr. Sanak kumar Badtya,M.Phil, Ph.D, Sampratika Odia Natakara Prekshya-pata-re Ramesh Panigrahi : Eka Adhyayana (The place of Ramesh Panigrahi in the context of Odia Theatre, Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Berhampur University, 1996)

3.Padmabibhusan Dr. Sitakant Mahapatra (Jnanpith Awardee) “Modern Odia Drama” in Contemporary Indian Literature,Vol-1, Ed. K.M.George, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 1984.

4.Dr. Lita Mohanty Ramesh Panigrahi-nka Natakare Atikalpanara Prayoga ( The element of fantasy deployed in Ramesh Panigrahi’s Plays, 2000), Unpublished Ph.D.Thesis, Utkal University.

5. Dr. Batakrishna Swain, Ramesh Panigrahi-nka Jatra Natak, Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, Utkal University, 2004

6. Dr. Ajoy kumar Sutar, Ramesh Panigrahi-nka Jatra Natakare Prayoga-O-Pareekshya, Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Utkal University, 2010

7. Sabitabala Nayak, Odia Ekankika O Salis-biheena Ekankikakar Ramesh Prasad Panigrahi, (A Study of the short plays of Ramesh Panigrahi, A playwright with no compromise) Unpublished Thesis, Sambalpur University, 2011.

8. Dr. Pratima kumari Panigrahi, Odia Natya Jagata-ku Ramesh Panigrahi-nka Dana, (The contribution of Ramesh Panigrahi to the field of Odia Drama) Unpublished Ph.D thesis, Berhampur University,2015

9., Dr. Nikhilesh Mohanty, Ramesh Panigrahi-nka Natakare Myth O Lokanatya Sailee( Deployment of Myth and the folk theatre style in Ramesh Panigrahi’s plays, 2015) Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Utkal University, 2015

10 Dr. Bibekananda Panigrahi, Mu-Ambhe-O-Ambhemane: A gateway to the New Theatre Movement in Odisha, 2013

11.Prof. Sanghamitra Mishra. A study of the women characters in Ramesh Panigrahi’s plays

12. Prof. Gurucharan Behera,( Professor of English, Benares Hindu University, Varanasi, U.P.) Fantasy in Ramesh Panigrahi’s plays

13.Dr. Simachal Nahak, Timira Trushna: A Bird’s Eye view

14.Dr. Swarajyalaxmi Mishra, Hati-ku-Homeopathy Natakare Galpayana O Samrachana prasanga (Structure and Narratology in Hatiku Homeopathy)

15.Dr. Ganeswar Mishra. Ananda nagaraku Jatra: A study in metaphysics

16. Prof. Bijoy kumar Satpathy: The Idea of Revolution in Mahanataka

17. Shri Nihar Chandra Patnayak: The study of Society in Ramesh Panigrahi’s Plays

18. Prof. Debi prasanna Patnayak. Chinha-Achinha-ra Natyakar-Ramesh Prasad Panigrahi (The playwright of the known and unknown territories)

19. Prof. Niladribhushan Harichandan: Creative experiments in Dhritarashtra-ra Akhi

20. Pradeep kumar Rath, I.A.S.: The myth of Maha-purusha (superman) in Manduka Upakhyanam

21. Prof. Sanghamitra Mishra: Ramesh Panigrahi: An intrinsic interpretation of his plays

22. Prof. Krishna Chandra Pradhan: Theoretical Roots of Social Realism in Ramesh Panigrahi’s plays

Ramesh P. Panigrahi’s contribution to Indian Theatre

Mrs. Pratima kumari Panigrahi

Lecturer in Oriya

Savitri Mahila Mahavidyalaya


In the process of my doctoral research on The contribution of Ramesh Panigrahi as a playwright to the field of Odia theatre I have written a full introductory chapter on the modern theatre movements made in the regional and vernacular sectors all over India during the 1960s. A comparative evaluation of the theatrical/dramatic trends shows that Sri Ramesh P. Panigrahi (b.1944) has recorded unique shifts and seismographic displacements of theatrical sensibility of Indian theatre. His experiments, very often, precede the experiments done by important play wrights like Vijay Tendulkar, Badal Sircar and Girish Karnad, his senior contemporaries who are considered now as the path-breakers of Indian drama. It is unfortunate that most of his plays (he has written 83 plays) have not been translated into English. “I don’t want to be a messiah and a message-vendor to change the society through my art. The theatre audience never buys tickets to learn sociological messages from the proscenium auditorium. I write plays in which I can offer only a testimony, not a didactic message. I feel that a work of art which is ideological and nothing else would be pointless, inferior to the doctrine it claimed to illustrate. An ideological play can be no more than the vulgarization of an ideology.”- He speaks to one of his interviewers in 1985.

The framework of his plays is consciously social, but the core of them is human. Most of his early plays, however, have elements of political melodrama. His subject is human misery in post colonial Odisha. No society has been able to abolish human sadness, no political system can deliver us from the pain of living, from our fear of death, our thirst for the absolute; it is the human condition that directs the social condition, not the vice versa. Panigrahi understands this perfectly and hence feels the need to break down the language of society. He had personally known Vijay Tendulkar and had learnt from him the need to break down the formulas and slogans of the pseudo-visionaries who sell themselves in the media and manipulate awards. In 1971 Panigrahi performed and published 28 anti-plays, atom-plays, flash plays and in the mid-1970s he organized “theatrical happenings”, sea-beach plays (Biswambhara Senapati-O-Darpana Upakhyanam at Puri in 1975, 1976, and 1977) and a street play (Buddha) at Nowrangpur in 1974 directed by Bhubaneswara Dalei. In Biswambhara Senapati an old man attempts to suspend the rotating wheel of time so that he would revert back to his youth to re-live his past.

In Munda sara ghushuri chhua (Piglets in the head, 1974) a morbid patient comes to the clinic of Dr. Surendra Prasad Das and complains that his psychic space is filled with slime, cow-dung and fecal “matter” encouraging piglets (small pigs) to live and breed inside. The doctor diagnoses the disease to be infectious and appalling for the health of the civil society. As a socially committed physician he wants to cleanse the filth and replace it with implanting a rose-plant. The patient was horrified at the prospect getting his head cleansed and attempted to flee the operation. The doctor, unfortunately, had an infective artistic sensibility and a sense of social commitment. He was determined to save the society by evacuating the slime from his patient’s psychic space. The patient kicked the wall from a laying position. The operation table with small wheels rolled on and it whirled through the busy roads of the city of Cuttack and fell into river Kathjodi. The doctor pursued the patient till the circular ring road and finally jumped into In another play captioned Jesane Keeta Urnanabhi (Like the insect called the spider) eleven Ramesh Panigrahis appear on the stage with eleven masks and enact how the playwright spins webs of illusive fiction each time to ensnare the audience. But the spider-like playwright stays captivated in the web of his own mysterious process of creation. This self-reflexive avant-garde experiment theatricalizes how a playwright named Ramesh Panigrahi is murdered by black magical application. Two detectives, a flabby old man and a lanky young detective with a big cow-boy hat jump out from the television screen on to the drawing room. They try to investigate empirically how a post modern playwright is murdered by transcendental devices. The playwright has argued in seminars that theatre ought to work with veritable shock tactics and yet attempt to articulate the ineffable, and the inexpressible through visual images. As a theatre director, Panigrahi makes profuse use of coloured lighting and background music to communicate the incommunicable. Very few, may be no other modern Indian playwright, has this imagistic vision of theatrical performance.

Ramesh Panigrahi has deployed the techniques of indigenous folk theatre into the modern Indian theatrical style in Mahanataka (translated into English as The Emperor with his Pot) for the first time in February, 1971, six months before Girish Karnad’s Hayavadana and two years before Vijay Tendulkar’s Ghasiram Kotwal. Although rendered in a style that blended farce and modern poetry, the two stick-players (called daskathia in Odia)/who are also the sutradhara narrators of Mahanataka (culled from the Odia folk register) transform themselves into characters(as Vidushakas) and also revert back to their performative position intermittently as “narrators” . Yet, the characters of Mahanataka seem real, and at the same time invented and allegorically designed. What troubles the playwright is the unreal transparency of the world, which inevitably leads him toward a weighty, ponderous opaqueness. No other playwright in India has experimented so bounteously in the dramatic genre. The imaginary museum of stylistic heterodoxy discovered in Panigrahi’s plays is absent in Badal Sircar’s “third theater”, Karnad’s “contemporization of myths” and Vijay Tendulkar’s scathing portrayal of evil in Marathi society.

*(Translated by Sri B. Panda and abridged from Odia, from the concluding chapter of my doctoral dissertation, captioned Odia Natya Jagata ku Ramesh Panigrahinka Dana, registered under the guidance of Prof. Aswini kumar Panda, Berhampur University (Odisha,India) vide 647/07 dated 30-05-2007)

Ramesh P. Panigrahi: Modern Odia Playwright

Dr. Bayamanu Churchi Ramesh P.Panigrahi is a modern Odia playwright, director, music composer, stage designer, song-writer and he is intensely aware of his role as a socio-political reformer who has fought corruption and spiritual blasphemy all through his theatrical career which began in 1963. Much of his dramatic work depends on improvisation and comprises of the recovery of “illegitimate” forms of theatre such as introducing Brechtian modes of performance for the first time in Bindu-O-Balaya (The centre and the circumference, 1966) in a time when six commercial theatre houses struggled to supply melodramas to the urban Odia audience at Cuttack. Dr. Panigrahi liberated Odia theatre from the clutches of sentimental depiction of social events on a multi-scene proscenium stage. Panigrahi shunned the multi-scene format of performance in 1965 when his second play Nisitha Surya (The midnight sun) was staged in the annual festival of the Ravenshaw college drama society with three stages arranged horizontally. That generated a theatrical upsurge in Cuttack since reputed playwrights like Gopal Chhotray (All India Radio, Cuttack), Balaram Mishra (wrote for Janata Theatres, Cuttack) and Narasimha Mahapatra (a playwright and producer of All India Radio, Cuttack) along with other reputed cine and stage actors. Dr. Panigrahi acknowledges in an interview how he was appreciated and inspired by these senior playwrights for the creation of an “anti-hero” for the first time on the Odia Stage. Muktikant, the main protagonist of Nishitha Surya (later re-captioned and published under the title Timira Trishna, or The Thirst for Darkness) was a contrary to the archetypal romantic hero, and yet the character retained many heroic qualities. Dr. Panigrahi’s conception of the hero changed as the norms of the Odia society of the 1950s changed by 1965.

Ramesh Panigrahi considered theatre as a semiotic practice, which refers to the gestural, visual or auditory communication on the stage. However, in Timira Trishna dialogic discourse was still recognized as a semantic practice. This young playwright was engaged with a “signifying set” (the form of the stage, back-ground music, lighting and dialogic performance in accordance with the Speech-Act Theory). These were done not according to a prescribed usage, nor a construct, nor an “already there”- which define a sign system, or a language; but on the contrary, a setting into signs, a construction, a process of signification. From this stand point, anything may take on significance through his process of the dramatic performance which reveals that Ramesh Panigrahi is more of a virtual director articulating with visual poetry which none of his senior or junior contemporaries dared to negotiate. In late 1960s, Panigrahi apprenticed with painters, musicians and choreographers and dabbled with musical instruments as a part of his own theatrical awareness.

Dr. Panigrahi has worked in theatre productions with painters (1966: in Chitralekha Studio, Berhampur), musicians (1967-69: Ganjam Kala Parishad, Berhampur) and with choreographers in different cities (Puri, Jeypore, and Titilagarh) of Odisha (India) for about five years (1965-1969). As a reputed theatre director of the empty-space Jatra theatre, he has not only experimented with performing space in a three-stage format ( He experimented with a moving stage that railed between the main acting space and the cyclorama), but also wrote, orchestrated and directed 19 full-length plays catering to more than 2000 audiences at a time and his performances ran for about 12 years at a stretch, not with the same cast, though.

His experiments with Jatra theatrical space was down-rated by a small corpus of “word-dreamers” (poets) and aesthetic fascist s who envied his theatrical popularity and argued for the egoistic idea that “true art” should not be accessible to the ordinary middle class. However, Panigrahi had his stint of theatrical avant-gardeism in the early 1970s when he published atom-plays like Guru-Sishya, Soiba purvaru (before lapsing into slumber), Buddha (a street play in which the traffic pedestal becomes a character and the play was staged on Nowrangpur town with Khalli Dalei as the Director) Tuan Tuin ( a play based on a primitive Odia granny’s tale of 6th Century A.D.) and anti-plays like Viswambhara Senapati-O-Darpana Upakhyana. (The episode dealing with Viswambhara Senapati’s inner self and its mirror) (Directed by Radhakrishna Mahapatra of Puri), Adrushya Mu-ra Nuxa ( The contours of an invisible “I”) and Vigat Vavishyat (the future that is past). Against this aesthetic heroism, Panigrahi envisaged a peak point in his high modernist art of Odia literature, which is unprecedented. This playwright-director saw “art” as the only dependable reality and as an ordering principle of a quasi-religious kind. The unity of his pure aesthetic inventions is an apparent salvation from the shattered order of modern reality.

Most of the sub texts of Dr.Panigrahi’s plays evidence that he is fully aware and updated about the style of his performance which often carries the stamp of avant-garde experiment which no other Indian playwright could achieve. Yet, Panigrahi has carved a niche for himself in 1971 by introducing the indigenous Daskathia (the two performers play with two wooden sticks a three or four beat rhythm accompanied by singing) folk style of narration in Mahanatak (The Emperor with his pot), a cooked up fantasy play with intense allegorical import signifying the post colonial Indian politics. Mahanatak was awarded by Sahitya Akademi in 1984 and it attempted a strange mix of farce and modern poetry. Written and staged in November 1971, Mahanatak does not only bring in a paradigm shift in Odia modern theatre nurtured by Manoranjan Das’s immature attempts at psycho-sexual expressionism and Bijoy Mishra’s poor imitations of Mohan Rakesh (one of the pioneering modern Hindi playwrights performing at Delhi during the 1960s), but also initiates a revival of the rich repertoire of 28 varieties of Odia folk theatre. The play impacted a new trend in the Odia theatre of the 1970s and the Cultural Akademi, Rourkela started a Lok Natak Mahotsava(Folk Theatre Festival) in 1976. The festival continues till today and it has generated around 3000 plays from the younger generation of playwrights out of which 400 plays are staged.

Panigrahi, thereafter, worked as the technical director of a Prahallada Nataka Troupe of Luduludi, Ganjam and joined the National Theatre Festival of Folk Theatres (Kattai kuttu) organized by Henne Bruin at Katpadi, Tamilnadu in 2005. The play was highly acclaimed by the press reporters of The Hindu and the other local Tamil news papers since Panigrahi’s presentation of Prahallada Natak dissolved the barrier between the stage and the audience at Katpadi.

A National Theatre Festival based on the translated plays of Ramesh Panigrahi was organized by Canmass Theatre Group, Paradip from 18/3/2014 to 24/3/2014 and theatre groups from New Delhi, Assam and West Bengal staged Panigrahi’s plays in different languages. His plays had earlier been translated into Telugu, Hindi and Bengali and Repertoires in Bengal continue to perform Panigrahi’s Manduka Upakhyanam( The Frog Story) and Durghatana Basatah(All by Accidents) for the last three years.

Panigrahi’s early works written in the late 1960s and 1970s are peppered with criticisms of socio-political injustice, instances of communal disharmony and violence and fiscal dishonesty of the Indian middle class society. Besides, Panigrahi is a stern critic of the tragic contradictions imbedded in the harsh realities of the neo-bourgeois regime. He is acutely aware of how crassly philistine utilitarianism has become the dominant ideology of the bureaucratic middle class that not only fetishizes rumors but also reduces human relations to market exchanges and dismisses the pursuit of art as unprofitable pastime.

He has written for Radio, television and films. Thrice awarded as the best dialogue writer of the Odia films, his Hindi tele-serial Ristey Kaise Kaise based on Odia stories helped outsourcing of the Odia fiction outside. Manoranjan Das produced his play Ananda Nagaraku Jatra ( Journey to the city of bliss) for the All India Radio, Cuttack and it was telecast for 23 times on the request of the audience). The main protagonists of the play, a newly married young couple, are in search of bliss that blinks beyond the sensation of sex and material achievements. The bliss the playwright hints at is something psycho-spiritual and is related to the down-pour of cosmic energy.

Panigrahi has written 83 plays in a career spanning for more than half a century (a period of 52 years, beginning in 1963) and his performances evidence how powerfully he transcends the theatrical visualization his senior Indian contemporaries like Vijay Tendulkar, Badal Sircar and Girish Karnad. He is one of the pioneering experimenters of introducing new modes of speech-act theory, phatic and other playful devices of theatrical communication and retrieving theatre from mythical-poetic literariness of Girish Karnad and clichéd dissolution of the barrier between stage and audience emphasized by Badal Sircar. Ramesh Panigrahi’s theatrical trajectory develops from social sentimentalism to epic devices, from embracing the Sanskrit theatrical mode to expanding his art to the boundaries of European avant-gardeism and finally, moving from the horror of experimental opacity to a seminal re-examination of melodrama; thereby switching focus from character psychology to an essential semiotic drama. Ramesh Panigrahi is taught in graduate and post graduate classes since 1971 in different universities and around six Ph.D. dissertations are awarded on him apart from sporadic articles written in Odia. A book of criticism captioned Ramesh Panigrahi: Sristi –O- Srasta edited by Prof. Krishna Chandra Pradhan and Dr. Bayamanu Churchi has been published in 2013 by Satyanarayana Book Store, Banka Bazar, Cuttack and the last Ph.D. thesis critiquing the elements of modernism in Ramesh Panigrahi’s plays has been awarded to Dr. Nikhilesh Mohanty, Lecturer in Odia Language and Literature, Jawaharlal Nehru Mahavidyalaya, Kuanpal, Cuttack in February, 2015.