Indian Ink

British-Indian Relations Now

Posted on: September 22nd, 2014 by Roundabout


Set on two different continents and in two different eras, Indian Ink follows free-spirited English poet Flora Crewe on her travels through India in the 1930s, where her intricate relationship with an Indian artist unfurls against the backdrop of a country seeking its independence. Fifty years later, in 1980s England, her younger sister Eleanor tries to preserve the legacy of Flora's controversial career. Below we cover British-Indian relations now.

“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new,  when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.”
Jawaharlal Nehru, Speech on the Granting of Indian Independence

India was granted political independence from Britain on August 14, 1947, but ties between the nations linger.

Chai, or Earl Grey? After centuries of colonial rule, Britain and India share a culture of tea-drinking. Cricket, a British invention, is the most popular sport in India. Some claim Indian curries are Britain’s national dish. India is home to the world’s largest English-speaking population: English is the unifying language of a diverse population. There are 1.5 million people of Indian origin living in the British Isles. For decades, the Indian middle and upper classes educated their children in Britain.

Today, India is the largest democracy in the world. When the nation created its constitution in 1950, it borrowed positive elements of Britain’s political system: an independent judiciary, free press, and a lower house modeled on the House of Commons. Additionally, India is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, a voluntary association of 53 nations, most of which are former British colonies.

Economically, India is predicted to become the world’s third-largest economy by 2050. Foreign countries look to India as an emerging market for their goods, as well as a source of potential employees. Currently, British banks lend more to India than any other nation, and British firms account for 30% of the foreign investment in the nation. In 2013, Britain’s prime minister visited India in attempt to forge closer commercial and diplomatic ties. Commentators noted that Britain seemed to to be wooing its now-more-powerful former colony.

The influence of Britain on India, and the influence of India on Britain, is undeniable. But debate continues about the legacy of colonialism. There is living memory of the British Raj: eight million Indians are alive today who were at least 15 years old in 1947. Should Britain apologize for atrocities like the massacre at Amritsar, or the famine during WWII? How should the history of British Empire be taught in British schools? How can India reclaim its indigenous languages and cultures? What does it mean to be Indian today?

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

Artists, writers, and filmmakers are exploring the legacy of the British Empire in India. Perhaps the best-known is author Salman Rushdie. His Midnight’s Children tells of the life of a fictional character born at exactly midnight on August 14, 1947, the moment of Indian independence. Rushdie said, “Midnight’s Children, a book which repeatedly uses images of land reclamation, because Bombay is a city built upon reclaimed land, was itself an act of such reclamation, my attempt to reclaim my Indian origins and heritage from my eyrie in Kentish Town.”






Related Categories:
2014-2015 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Indian Ink, Upstage

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Indian Ink: Read, Watch, Listen, Look

Posted on: September 3rd, 2014 by Olivia O'Connor


Immerse yourself in the world of Indian Ink with our recommended reading, watching and listening and looking lists!

What to Read

In the Native State by Tom Stoppard

First aired on BBC Radio 3 in 1991, this radio play by Tom Stoppard was the origin of Indian Ink. Though the structures of the radio and stage plays differ, their subject matter is similar. Actress Felicity Kendal played poet Flora Crewe in both In the Native State’s radio premiere and in Indian Ink’s 1995 London premiere.

Up the Country by Emily Eden

This book referenced in Indian Ink is a collection of letters from the travels of Emily Eden, an upper-crust member of English Society. Eden arrived in India in 1836 and stayed (with her brother, a Governor-General) for six years, spending two of them traveling the country. Her letters to her sister in England provide a glimpse into Imperial India from an English perspective.

Hobson Jobson Dictionary by Colonel Henry Yule and A.C. Burnell

Published in 1872 and subtitled “A glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases, and of kindred terms etymological, historical, geographical and discursive,” this dictionary traces the lineage of English words to their Indian roots. The original version of the book is closer to a reference book than a typical dictionary, with narrative definitions (and a strongly Imperial point of view).

Rasa: Performing the Divine in India by Susan L. Schwartz

In Indian Ink, Flora and Das talk about the concept of “rasa.” Das explains, “Rasa is juice. It’s taste. It’s essence. A painting must have rasa… which is not in the painting exactly. Rasa is what you must feel when you see a painting, or hear music; it is the emotion which the artist must arouse in you.” This book explores the etymology and importance of the term, as well as its influence and significance in Indian performing arts.

What to Watch

“Witness: The end of British Rule in India.”

In this BBC News Magazine clip, Anne Wright, the daughter of an official of the British Empire, briefly recounts her childhood growing up in India near the end of British rule in the nation.

“The British Empire in Colour.”

This Acorn Media-produced documentary covers the history of the British Empire around the world, in both power and decline. The documentary is narrated by Art Malik, who appeared as Nirad Das in Indian Ink’s London (Aldwych Theatre) and U.S. (American Conservatory Theater) premieres.

What to Listen To

Archive of Indian Music

This collection of recordings (searchable by genre, artist name, or musical characteristic) provides a glimpse into the sounds of India. Each artist profile includes both sound clips and a biography section.

What to Look At

National Museum, Delhi

This online exhibit of items from Delhi’s National Museum, available through the Google Cultural Institute, provides a glimpse into various Indian artifacts and art styles. 165 items are available for viewing, from coins to tapestries to paintings to swords.

“Ragamala: Picturing Sound”

This exhibit, running through December 14, 2014 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, features paintings which celebrate music (and the mood/quality of music, known as “raga”). Many of the paintings are bordered with poetry, making the exhibit an especially appropriate companion to Indian Ink, in which two modes of artistic expression collide.


A Musician Charms a Mrig (Antelope)


Indian Ink
 begins previews on September 4 at the Laura Pels Theatre in the Harold & Miriam Steinberg Centre for Theatre. For more information and tickets, please visit our website.

Related Categories:
2014-2015 Season, Indian Ink, Roundabout Recommends

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Interview with Actor Rosemary Harris

Posted on: September 2nd, 2014 by Ted Sod


Rosemary Harris

Education Dramaturg Ted Sod spoke with Rosemary Harris about her role as Eleanor Swan. 

Ted Sod: Why did you choose to do this play and the role of Eleanor Swan?

Rosemary Harris: I’ve always wanted to be in a play by Tom Stoppard. My daughter, Jennifer Ehle, has been in two (The Real Thing and The Coast of Utopia) and I am a little envious, as well as being a great admirer of his other plays.

TS: You spent some time in India as a young person -- correct?

RH: Yes, I did. My sister Pam and I were raised on the North West Frontier of India, on the border with Afghanistan. Our father had served there in the Royal Air Force where he won his first Distinguished Flying Cross in 1924 for “gallant and distinguished service.” He won three altogether – quite a record!

TS: Were you also educated in India?

RH: Yes, there was a little garrison school for children of the men in the Service.

TS: What do you think the play Indian Ink is about?

RH: It’s about so many things. Mr. Stoppard’s plays always are. I think one of the themes is about change, how people and countries change. Eleanor says towards the end of the play, “One alters.” A big understatement.

TS: What do you make of Eleanor, the character you are playing?

RH: At the beginning of the play, Eleanor is a typical retired “memsahib,” the Indian name for European women living in India before independence, but after she meets Anish, the young Indian artist, and hears what he reveals to her, she is a different person.

TS: Because you lived in India and because you're British, there isn’t much research for you to do, is there?

RH: I've got photographs of my mother and father in India in the 1920s and ‘30s. When Eleanor first arrives in North West India, she says, "It was early summer. The wind was blowing and I've never seen such blossoms— it blew everywhere." I remember those orchards. You can’t forget them.

TS: Have you been back to India recently?

RH: Jennifer was making a film, Before the Rains, about five years ago in Southern India, in Kerala, and she invited me to visit her there.

TS:  Will you talk about Mr. Stoppard's writing? Is it challenging?

RH: Yes, it’s challenging! Someone said of his plays: "Words, words, words. Lots and lots of words and ideas.” It's the way he puts them all together. It’s magical and makes you think!

TS: How do you see the relationship between Eleanor and Flora?

RH: Eleanor was only three years old when their mother died, and so Flora was the one that took care of her. My older sister, Pam, is sixteen years older than my younger sister, Patsy (there were three of us).  Our mother died when she was five and I was fourteen -- so there are many echoes.

TS: I spoke to Carey Perloff, the director, two days ago, and she’s done a tremendous amount of research on this piece, and of course she's directed countless Stoppard plays.

RH: I am very much looking forward to working with her. She understands the play so well.

TS: Have you worked with many women directors?

RH: Not very many. I had a teacher/director at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where I trained for a year, named Mary Duff, who taught me practically everything I know. She gave us her phone number. My very first job, I called her up and worked with her. I worked with her as long as she lived and whenever geography permitted. One of the things she taught me was: Don't give the dictionary meanings of words. That's not theatre or acting. It's the tone you say the words in that counts. Ask any dog!

It sounds like she was dealing with nuance.

RH: You can say the same phrase in many different ways and mean many different things and have many different intentions.

TS: Are you comfortable giving advice to young people who might want a career on stage?

RH: It all depends on what your goals are. If it’s the theatre and the stage that really interests you, you should work on your voice, develop its range and flexibility and most important of all – projection! Audiences depend on your being audible! Good luck in all your endeavors.

Indian Ink begins previews on September 4 at the Laura Pels Theatre in the Harold & Miriam Steinberg Centre for Theatre. For more information and tickets, please visit our website.

Related Categories:
2014-2015 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Indian Ink, Upstage

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