Radio Drama In Manipur
- Part 1 -

Sagolsem Indrakumar *

 Golden Jubilee Celebration of All India Radio (AIR), Imphal on 26 October 2013
Golden Jubilee Celebration of All India Radio (AIR), Imphal on 26 October 2013 :: Pix - DIPR Manipur

(Translated by Aheibam Koireng Singh)

Radio Drama is one of newest art form. But today, Radio drama is not a new thing to the general masses. Next to news and film songs, among the All India Radio (AIR) programs, Drama has the greatest number of listeners. Today, there are so many playwrights, artists for radio drama and a large number of audience to listen to them. At this juncture, it is pertinent to relook at the history of Radio drama.

In the year 1927, one broadcasting company by the name Indian Broadcasting Company commissioned two broadcasting station first at Bombay and subsequently at Calcutta. The Bombay Station way inaugurated by Lord Irwin, incumbent Viceroy of India on 23rd July.

On 1st April 1930, it was renamed as the Indian State Broadcasting Service (ISBS) and Lionel Fielden, formerly with the British Broadcasting Services (BBS) assumed and function as its controller. ISBS was again given a new nomenclature as All India Radio (AIR) in 1935, June 8. The third Radio Station in India was commissioned at Delhi.

Indian Broadcasting Company started airing dramas which are radiogenic from 1936. Meanwhile questions can be raised as to why radio drama was started airing very much later almost after 10 years as India had a broadcasting station as early as 1927. Advancement in the science and technology also brought so many corresponding changes in the art and literature.

Radio is one such wonder brought about by the advancement in science and technology. It brought a change among the people of their earlier notion of drama. For centuries, people have been considering drama as an audio-visual art form of arts and literature.

But radio drama has proved that drama can be played and perform only with audio voices. It is because of this reason that stage dramatists, litterateurs and theatre personas were hesitant to acknowledge drama as an art form.

Actually the purpose of radio drama is same as that of writing a story, narrating a story. In radio drama, story is narrated in dramatized form through the medium of microphone. There is no stage and camera for it. Microphone is the only medium for radio drama. That is why there is a sea of difference in writing and producing a radio drama and that of stage drama.

One example of such difference is that we cannot know and comprehend the story, sequence and character of the film by listening to its soundtrack. In radio drama, there are voices, musical and sound effects. All these are also equally there in the film. But in films, more importance are given to films. Without visuals, only by listening its sound track, one cannot fully comprehend the story.

In Radio Drama, on the other hand, the part for seeing are replaced by dialogue, music and sound effect. So, in radio drama, all the story are well understood and comprehensible only by listening. All scenes can be visualised as if it is happening in front of the eyes of the listeners.

Same is the case of the stage drama also. It too could not be comprehended and understood only by listening. As stage dramas are scripted and produced giving more emphasis on visuals. Stage Drama and films can fully express the story without any dialogue or voice. There are so many dialogue less films also.

However, in radio drama, as it is based on voices and sound effects, even a brief spell of silence without any voice or sound effect makes the listeners restless. In radio drama, dramatists, producers, and artists with all their talents with the help of microphone, depicts the story of the drama in a wholesome manner and successfully portrays as if it is occurring before the eyes.

Here the most important role is that of narrative dialogue. Listeners are made known of the place, time and situation with the help of narrative dialogue. In addition to narrative dialogue, there are so many others which differentiates radio drama from stage drama.

In radio drama, there is no limitation for place and time. What cannot be performed and are not possible in stage drama are possible and can be enacted in stage drama. Conversely, radio drama to aptly put means listening to radio. Listeners have the right to switch off the radio at their will. So, the introductory part of radio drama should be presented in a way which is attractive to the listeners.

If the introductory part doesn't give pleasure to the listeners, it will automatically be switched off. All the elements which can give story should be given at a short period of time. In radio drama, there is no use for inclusion of preamble, prologue, and subplot.

The concluding part is also same. It should give a lasting impression to the audience, make them discuss about it and leave them satisfied. Just to give an example, it is crucially very important to give a sequence of the storyline without break, and there should be concerted efforts to make in a way which gives pleasure to the listener from the beginning to the end.

The time duration for the radio drama are 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes and 60 minutes. The standard time duration of radio drama is actually 30 minutes. Globally, the time duration of radio drama for most of the radio station is 30 minutes. Considering its limited time, characters in the drama, that is, the number of artists should be very few.

As it not visually seen, characters in the radio drama are determined by their voice. The lesser the number of characters, the more easily comprehensible and understood it is to the listener audience.

Although radio broadcasting started in 1929 in India, It is only from the 1936 that airing radio drama started. Reasons for it could be dramatists and playwrights of stage drama could not innovate themselves from their technique of writing stage drama and were not acquainted with writing radiogenic drama which are suitable for radio.

So, writers started translating English one act plays and radio drama of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to various Indian languages and started broadcasting from radio stations in India. Later, playwrights and dramatists emulate the techniques of BBC radio plays and started writing their own. Ensuing to it there was advancements and Indian radio drama developed in great measure.

So many radiogenic dramas have started coming up in various Indian languages. Those radio dramas were not only radiogenic but also of high literary merit. In 1947 after India became independent, All India Radio also gained its autonomy from the BBC.

India's independence gave a new impetus to the Radio Drama of India giving rise to new thinking and feelings with renewed vigour. This gave a new shape to the art and cultural heritage and historical wealth of the Indians.

One of the most outstanding achievement of Indian Radio Drama is AIR's national program of plays at all India level. National Programme of plays was first introduced in the year 1956. For the past 50 years or so, the programme has been at the national carrying the personality and charm of actual India.

The program is aired on the fourth Thursday of every month at 9.30 pm from the radio stations at Delhi and all others at a time. For the said national programme of plays, plays are selected from among the recognised languages of India and translated into various regional languages and broadcasted simultaneously at the same time.

The objective of it is to have exchanges of literary wealth of various regions of the country. Through this programme, the national integrity, harmony, and colours of unity in diversity are presented to the listeners.

Today, after years of trial and experimentation, Indian radio drama can be said to be fully matured and has reached its zenith. Today, radio drama enjoys the status of an altogether different art form, having its own literature, rules, tradition and occupies a respectable and honoured place at the national level.

The radio drama through the network of all the radio stations in India not only provides entertainment to the crores of Indians but also provide information with educative value. It is a matter of great personal satisfaction and pride that there was a change in the perception of the various Indian universities about the radio drama that radio drama have been taken up as area of study for serious academic pursuit leading to the award of degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), and Master of Philosophy (M.Phil).

So many renowned and reputed universities have Radio Drama in their curriculum for Department of Drama. Radio Drama which started in 1936 after it has become developed and fully matured have been taking huge responsibilities in shaping up the new drama literature.

It is to everyone's knowledge that most of the Indian Stage Dramas of yesteryears were mostly based on religious scriptures of Hindu tradition and historical. But many radio dramas aired by AIR while focusing on social themes discusses many pertinent social issues thereby taking up the responsibility for bringing social reforms. AIR deserves due acknowledgement and recognition for it.

Many of such plays, after slight modification were found produced and staged in the form of one act play in various Indian regional languages. From all these reasons, all the one act playwright from the 1940-50s were all nourished and mentored by All India Radio.

At the national level also, old dramas, novels, epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata which remain confined to the library shelves and classroom teaching were all adapted in the form of radio drama by the AIR and reached out to the audience listeners in the nook and corner of the country by airing it.

To be continued....

[Reproduced from the book, Aheibam Koireng Singh, Shukhdeba Sharma Hanjabam, Ksh Chitrabhanu Devi (eds.), Media in Manipur, Vol.I, published for Intellectual Forum of North East by Akansha Publishing House, N. Delhi, 2020, ISBN 978-81-8370-575-2]

* Sagolsem Indrakumar wrote this article , which was published at Imphal Times
This article was webcasted on December 02 2020.

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