Malavikagnimitram is one of the earliest works of Kalidasa. And critical analysts have always called it a bit raw. And those who are good with words say that you must read it to know the growth of the poet, dramatist, and author Kalidasa. I may have read bits and pieces of his works in the school. But never got to read him in detail. Though I have all his works in original Sanskrit along with the translations in Hindi. I think I have been putting away reading that giant book for the amount of time and concentration it requires. When you read the original in the language that you understand in minutest of nuances, you tend to get lost in the multiplicity of meanings thereof.
So when this small little book came to me, I read it as soon as possible. To at least get started on that path. Translator – who in my opinion re-writes the book in his own way. Talks about Kalidasa and his works in the beginning. He gives a context for the play and talks about the numerous translations already available of all the works of Kalidasa.
5 small acts depict 5 scenes and in these 5 situations is depicted the infatuation of the king Agnimitram for a young maid Malavika. Who is afraid of his other queens and is unable to confess his love for her. Malavika on the other hand also likes the King. But given her situation knows that he is out of reach for her. King with the help of his friend Gautam plays various tricks to meet the girl. And that is what comprises of 3 acts in the middle. In the last act, the maid turns out to be a princess in disguise whom the king with the consent of his queens accepts as his new queen. All is well, that ends well.
The play is high on Shringar Ras and Hasya Ras i.e. romance and comedy. Though there are elements of politics; they remain more as a backdrop. The fact that the king is scared of his senior queens and has to play games with them provides the comic angle. And his friend acts as the one who anchors the Hasya Ras here. The descriptions of the heroine i.e. Malavika provides the Shringar. The story is pretty simple. It’s the emotions of the protagonists that are the highlight of the play. In the end, everything comes out so simply or maybe when viewed through the lens of our complicated lives those days were simple enough.
It was an extremely quick read. And the only thing I missed was the ‘vyakhaya’ or the critical analysis of the text as we used to have during the school days.
I still want to read the original in Sanskrit/Hindi. And have already dusted by red colored hardbound copy translated and interpreted by Brahmanand Tripathi. Reading this book was like re-igniting that urge to read the classical works of ancient India.
If you have not read Malavikagnimitram and want to be initiated into the writing of Kalidasa – read this.