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KARNAD AND THE CORPORATE - THE THEATRICS OF THE BUSINESS WORLD.


Girish Karnad is one of the most significant writers of Indian literary forum whose dramatic works significantly correlate with the tenets of the “Corporate”. I discovered this fact as I delved deep into the “ethos” of non-committal adherence to communication implied in Karnad’s two most popular plays Naga-Mandala and Hayavadana; highly evasive in terms of carving any neat understanding of human behavior in the socially identifiable binaries like “good” and “bad”. The theory was in sync with the ambiguity of the corporate culture which prompted me to not only acknowledge but also make a case-study of Karnad’s relevance in the corporate as follows:

A corporate, I felt was a similar scenario wherein “stereotyping” people based on social conditioning that compartmentalizes human nature into static terms is nearly impossible. My experience in the corporate sector brought me to terms with extremely excruciating activity of labeling people as per their apparent behavioral tendencies and my conventional ideologies came to a halt in this matter. Therefore, all I had was the evident characteristic of role-play executed by the bunch of professionals who seemed to have distinct way of approaching every next frame they were in. At times, cordial demeanor was next minute substituted with a stringent pedagogy for which the reason seemed inexplainable and I was left with a perpetual dilemma of “who’s who” in spite of the fact that I was well aware of each one’s official designation- I wanted to know their real self which seemed impossible.

My expedition continued wherein the few possibilities came to the fore that led me to the conclusion that our expectations of concrete characterization in terms of evident behavioral types germinates out of our parochial outlook; which, as Girish Karnad’s theatre speaks, needs termination in order to cultivate a more ‘accommodating’ attitude required to survive in the midst of the virtually unpredictable human nature. Classifying humans by using their evident mannerisms as the yardstick more often than not fail on account of the fact that people are perpetually engaged in a “role play” – to put in Shakespearean terminology; “All the world’s a stage” is a renowned fact. Nonetheless, the corporate sector provides a more candid vision of this truth as the world outside sustains on account of the “histrionics” that’s supposed to be executed because the “Not too much of Honesty” can become the “Best Policy”. I could relate the situation perfectly to Padmini’s dilemma in Hayavadana wherein Kali says, “There should be a limit even to Honesty”. She knew that she wanted the best of both men in her life, her husband’s intellect and his friend’s macho body. When she exchanged the heads of the two men in Kali temple in order to obtain the best combination of brain and brawn which seemed to be otherwise an accidental situation having germinated out of her impetuous decision of mismatching the heads of the two people in utter anxiety, it is synonymous to the maneuvering needed in order that the world of ‘commerce’ keeps going with the best of the Sales that accompanies manipulations of the kinds that Padmini engages herself in. It is absolutely correct that “We would aid you fundamentally in the future needs; if any, after buying our product but our drawbacks need not be your concern; we highlight our assets in the best possible ways and in the due course of the same, we combine our intellect and our resources to the fullest.” So our product that emerges out is the perfect combination of the kind Padmini is looking for, “perfect blend of brain and brawn” which is indeed attractive. Nonetheless, it needs to be a ‘healthy manipulation’ and not an enterprise undertaken for the achievement of self-centred goals or else a business venture encounters the kind of disappointment that Padmini encounters in her life when she is confronted by her own wrong choice based on conventional precept that says, “head is more important than the body”. Indeed, intelligence is the need of the hour in order to secure burgeons in business but the corporate world denies - “too much of intelligence is dangerous”. Thus, all your contrivance needs to be derived from the perspective of consumer satisfaction and not based on the impetus of seeking commercial benefit at any cost. There needs to be a perfectly regulated process which cannot run hay ways like Hayavadana or the horse-head man in Karnad’s play that runs helter-skelter seeking perfection by shedding of the imbalance created by his weird persona: Horse head and human body. Such imbalance is often witnessed in businesses of the corporate sectors when the machinations engendering from the head become prioritized over making ‘sense’ of the ‘way’ in which the plans should be regulated. The body of the horse metaphoric of a business venture runs in search for perfection or success; whereas, this run becomes Utopian search on account of the utter failure to monitor the modes of reaching the goal. Honesty may not be opted as the only policy but it cannot be underestimated as well in business despite the risks that it accompanies. This is the crucial challenge of the business wherein a modified version of ‘truth’ that’s neither fact nor fiction needs to be adopted tactfully to safeguard company concerns. Rani, the female protagonist in Girish Karnad’s Naga-Mandala says, “None but this snake and my husband have touched me”. Her presentation of truth is an altered version of fact which supports neither falsity nor claims that she is honest. Since her honesty is an attempt to save herself from the atrocities of her atrocious husband Appanna who is a tyrant, Rani’s endeavour to manipulate facts becomes legitimate and she therefore becomes lauded as the goddess at the close of the play. The Mandala or convoluted geometric design becomes an integral backdrop of the play conveying the paradigm of life that’s seldom prone to give neat justifications to queries. Life comes to us as a surprise at all times; the calculative risks taken by people justify the worth of their choices. Thus, while selling a product, there needs to be a stratagem that counters all counter-questioning of the consumers effectively- not lying to them but at the same time, not proclaiming complete truth that could wane the sales of the product but in order to do so, it needs to be ensured that both parties are at least risk.

Manipulations are the crux of the business enterprise in any corporate sector which, as per my point of view, leads people to assume more than many avataras they often obfuscate us with. It becomes highly unpredictable in this case to judge people and which in turn makes us quite receptive to oddities in behaviour; thus, we learn to refrain from imposing our expectations on our colleagues. Affable interpersonal relations are a result of this open-minded approach wherein our faculties become ready to accommodate with one and all which is the finest thing of a corporate sector. Not only this, we learn the “Business ethics” of the professional world that makes us more pragmatic and yet not estranged from our humane sensibility. I feel, as a writer, Girish Karnad’s ambivalent characters like Padmini and Rani in his plays pave way for construing the ambiguity in humans that goes beyond the level of worldly understanding based on conservative confirmations of right and wrong. The playwright’s characterization of puzzling figures like these two women make his plays entirely distinct and apt for putting forth a paradigm of dismantling prototypes in the world that helps to fathom the reason that people behave so differently at different times. This makes us accept the manner in which behavioral manipulations work and do not work as per the choice made by the individuals for which business is the apt parallel as, I believe, it affords the autonomy of free play as well as the restrictions required to carry on the venture successfully.

There is not much difference I perceive between theater that requires role play and business in the corporate world that requires the same. This role playing requires a whole lot of dexterous maneuvering which refrains from giving neat answers and retains the enigma until the end of the performance. Both, Business and play performance bring fiscal profit provided they control the risk factors involved carefully with an adequate balance of the head and the heart. “Performers” cannot help but “perform” but the recipients must engage in the “willing suspension of disbelief that constitutes poetic faith”. It is the faith that comes from the acceptance that it is a reconstruction and not fact while watching a play. It is the faith that comes from the acceptance that the product is genuine and not fake in a business. This is the crucial distinction between the two. While one sustains on the seemingly unreal, the other sustains on seemingly real. Which is truer is the perpetual dilemma that’s irresolvable and therefore, it seems interesting to engulf oneself in the comparison between the two apparently diverse mediums. Girish Karnad’s plays like Hayavadana and Naga-Mandala pave the way for resolving this issue. Both the plays, I feel have the potential to identify the need for applying effective communication strategies to resolve the problem of misunderstanding on the part of the recipients. When people and their language are immune to categorical classification, the risk of recrimination becomes almost negligible – losses are accepted equally by all as much as are profit and a business venture flourishes on account of its enigmatic nature that’s beyond all claims of right or wrong. Therefore, it becomes vital to involve a playwright as Karnad as a part of corporate training.

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