Losing the Politics in Translation: Reading Radical Bengali and Hindi Plays in American Classrooms

Arnab Banerji


The selection of modern Indian plays on the American market is very limited. In order to expand the available selection of texts for my classes, I decided to translate plays from Bengali and Hindi to English. The process included amongst other considerations negotiating the major roadblock of translating culture. This paper explores how cultural considerations with regard to one’s target audience affect the translation exercise and the perception of the translated text. Using the translations of Utpal Dutt’s Kākdvīper Ek Mā(A Mother from Kakdwip) and Jana Natya Manch’s (JANAM) Dī.Ṭī.Sī. kī dhā̃dhlī(The Corrupt Trappings of DTC) as case studies, the paper illustrates the challenge of translating the political immediacy and relevance of the original to a language and culture that is temporally, socially, and culturally removed. The paper also discusses various strategies that could be adopted to circumvent the problem of losing the original’s dramatic edge and its performative context in translation. 

Keywords: Bengali Group Theatre; Translation; Bijan Bhattacharya; Tagore; Utpal Dutt; Street Theatre; Political Theatre; JANAM; Safdar Hashmi.


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