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Jagan Mohan Lala is writer and director of first Odia play ‘Babaji’

Jatra was revived in 1877, in Odisha, when playwright Jagan Mohan Lala wrote and directed the first Odia play, Babaji, which used a fusion of melodrama and music to tell culturally impacting stories.

This year, the play was enacted by members of the theatre group Satabdira Kalakar at Rabindra Mandap in Bhubaneswar. The audience appreciated both the play and the performance.

The play raised social evils of those days, including tantrik practices and the practice of social prohibition. The play highlighted the distinction between good and bad spiritual gurus.

“The play was written with a motive to reform society. Lala was a great playwright and a very conscious person socially. We wanted to create awareness among people of the city about the playwright and the need to take up theatre as a medium of transforming society,” said Dhira Mallick, who directed the play.

“It is appreciable that an Odia man understood the might of the pen during those times and came up with such a story. Upcoming writers should write similar plays that acts promote a social awakening and deal with contemporary issues,” said a theatre enthusiast.

The play was first staged in 1984 and has been adapted in many languages and staged in various parts of the country. Jagan Mohan Lala’s other plays include Sati, Priti and Vriddha Vivaha, which spoke of the dreadful effects of the caste system, child marriage and other social evils.

Jagan Mohan Lala also translated Thomas Parnell’s poem The Hermit into the Odia in 1868.

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Jagan Mohan Lala

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