Unbroken Continuity of Structure

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At the end of the Prastāvanā of the Mattavilāsa-prahasanam, the sūtradhāra seems to be lost in the song he sings in praise of the poet-author of the play. For a moment, he seems to have forgotten that he has to put on a farcical comedy called the Mattavilāsa-prahasana:

Director:           Forgive me!

Here am I, one whose treasure is song,

Stupefied with recital of the poet’s virtues in full…

Voice:              (backstage) Dear Dēvasōmā!

Director:         Stupefied, as this Kapāli is, with liquor

Young lady’s friend, one whose treasure is a skull!

(They both exit.)

The backstage voice addressing Dēvasōmā is the voice of the leading character, Kapāli, at the beginning of the play-proper. The beginning of the play-proper thus coincides with the end of the prastāvanā. According to our argument, the sūtradhāra and the natī of the prastāvanā reappear in the roles of the Kapāli and Dēvasōmā. The paradox can easily be explained if we understand the implications of the backstage voice. The sūtradhāra impersonates the voice of the Kapāli and by doing so both he and the natī ‘auditorily’ transform themselves into the Kapāli and Dēvasōmā, that is, prior to their ‘visual’ transformation at the beginning of the play-proper. Classical Sanskrit play is said to be both ‘visual’ (drshya) and ‘auditory’ (shravya): “Drshyam shravyam ca yad-bhavēt” – that which is both visual and auditory (NS I.11). Where does, then, one locate the beginning of the play-proper? Logically speaking, it has its “auditory” beginning in the backstage voice at the end of the prastāvanā, though its “visual” beginning is located after the prastāvanā.

The device used by the playwright to effect such transformation, coincidence, and the logical auditory beginning of the play-proper is technically called “prayōgātishaya”. Vishvanatha defines the Prayōgātishaya in the following way:

Yadi prayōga ēkasmin prayōgānyah prayujyatē |

Tēna pātra-pravēshash-cēt prayōgātishayas-tadā ||

When on one level of production another level of production is superimposed and along with it if there is entrance of character then that (device) is called prayōgātishaya. (Sāhitya-darpana vi.20)

Dhananjaya’s definition also is worth quoting:

Ēshôyam-ity-upakshēpāt-sūtradhāra-pryōgatah |

Pātra-pravēshō yatraiva prayōgātishayō matah ||

The sūtradhāra’s announcement, with the expression Ēshôyam (this), and the simultaneous entrance of character – that is called prayōgātishaya (Dasha-rūpaka iii, 11)

The identification of the sūtradhāra with the Kapāli is hinted at in the comparison made in Sloka 5, which shows the literal drunkenness of the dipsomaniac (Kapāli) being superimposed on the metaphorical drunkenness of the panegyrist (the sūtradhāra). Apart from identifying the sūtradhāra with the Kapāli, the comparison does the function of introducing the two main characters, namely, the Kapāli and Dēvasōmā and also of introducing the major theme of the play – drunken sport which gives rise to laughter.