A new book views world cinema through the lens of Rasa Siddhanta or aesthetics and discusses how ancient Indian principles govern cinema as much as they govern stage. Prachand Praveer in his book Cinema Through Rasa: A Tryst with Masterpieces in the Light of Rasa Siddhanta, while drawing a parallel between theatre and films, says that movies have a different life and unlike on stage the act can be done in bits and pieces instead of all at one go.
But what he finds common is that both forms though are used to convey some message to the society. He says that drama brings people together, gives them courage, entertains them, brings happiness into their lives and also counsels them whenever required.
“Drama, in Bharata Muni’s words, is an emulation of the work and conduct of the people; it is fulfilling in emotions and highly descriptive in nature,” he writes. This book is an effort to bring to the reader the films that are good and bring about a sense of well-being in them, he says. “It explores the aesthetic theory bringing forth the ethical, moral and intellectual aspects inducing discussions and learning so that we all are inspired to see great movies and derive seamless pleasure from them,” Praveer adds.
Rasa Siddhanta finds descriptions in the Natyasastra and historians believe that it may have been written by many people in the period between 200 BCE and 200 CE, while scholars are of the view that its present form is a compilation from many texts. Bharata Muni says that he has taken its concept from the Atharvaveda. The most significant of all is the work of the 10th-century Saiva philosopher Acharya Abhinavagupta, who while extrapolating on the text Natyasastra also expounded his interpretation of the Rasa Siddhanta in his text Abhinavabharati.
Praveer is of the opinion that according to the Natyasastra, in the Indian tradition, dance, music and playing of musical instruments are an inseparable part of drama which have been unknowingly carried through into films. In the book, translated from the original Hindi version Abhinava Cinema by Geeta Mirji Narayan and published by DK Printworld (P) Ltd., he answers some pertinent questions on why a sad scene makes one cry or why a good drama makes one feel elated and full of joie de vivre?
“The answer lies in philosophy and particularly aesthetics. The extensive and proper study of reality and what governs consciousness, the study of how to gain knowledge and the study of language is not possible without the knowledge of aesthetics,” he says.
He also shares how rasa has always been the most discussed and effectually important of all the aesthetic doctrines.
Praveer elaborates on the various rasas drawing from different scenes from the world cinema in his book. “The sentiments, which are felt whenever a drama is seen have been quantified or listed down, according to the rasa theory as against the unknowable feelings described by the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant,” he says.
Praveer also says that out of these listed sentiments, some have been categorised on the basis of the exceptional way they make one realise the feelings shown: anger, laughter, fear, etc. These are above and beyond characters like pride, laziness and worry. The book further elucidates that Sanskrit poets have believed that rasa is the soul of a drama. Many of them like Kalidasa in his play Abhijnanasakuntalam and Bhavabhuti in his Uttararamacarita have even twisted and modified the traditional plot of the drama so that rasa can be given its due importance.