Rasa in Ratna Sarumpaet’s Play Pelacur dan Sang Presiden

In this article I would like to illustrate the rasas in a contemporary Indonesian play Pelacur dan Sang Presiden (The Prostitute and the President”). The play, written by Ratna Sarumpet, is about a woman who is victimized by the patriarchal society and resists this unequivocally in her own way. The protagonist of the play is Jamila, a prostitute who is sentenced to death for murdering a high-ranking official. Jamila is an obstinate character and her words are colored by tones of anger and protest. Therefore I will focus on Raudra Rasa (furious sentiment) in analyzing the play.

As regards rasa, Bharata Muni said that the mental states are called feelings because they make us feel the goal of poetry. Aesthetic experience is the process of tasting the Rasa. Abhinavagupta concluded that ‘rasa is simply the aim of poetry’ (Gnoli 52). Based on Abhinavagupta’s interpretation of Natyasastra, rasa is juice or flavour. It is a typical Indian concept especially with regard to aesthetics.

Rasa is to be experienced by the reader or spectator of performance. According to Bharata, rasa derives from the merge between the play and the actors’ act (Determinants). Out of this occur Consequents and Transitory Mental States (Gnoli 86). In Natyasastra, eight fundamental bhavas (mental states) are delight (rati), laughter (hasa), sorrow (soka), anger (krodha), heroism (utsaha), fear (bhaya), disgust (jugupsa) and wonder (vismaya). There are 36 occasional, transitory, impermanent states. There are 8 fundamental mental states or Rasa, namely the erotic (srngara), comic (hasya), pathetic (karuna), furious (raudra), heroic (vira), terrible (bhayanaka), odious (bibhatsa), marvelous (adbhuta).

Aesthetical experience is resulted from squeezing out of the poetical word. In drama, words of the actors come with actions. The spectator senses the performance through sight and hearing. As rasa is not revealed, but rather suggested or manifested, it does not lie on the actor. He is only the means, the ‘vessel’ of tasting. The play creates a distance between the spectator and the actor. Then the spectator identifies himself with the actor.


“The Prostitute and the President”

The drama starts from Jamila’s confession of killing a cabinet minister named Nurdin. The 26-year-old woman gives herself up and is imprisoned. From her diary, read by warden Ria, we have a glimpse of her childhood. Her father gives her away in trafficking. She is sold and raped, escapes and helps her younger sister to flee a brothel. She also becomes a prostitute, then Nurdin’s mistress. Currently she is pregnant. She is sentenced with death penalty and granted a final wish. She wishes to see the president and a prominent Islamic cleric of the country, which enraged the country.

The plot of the play is not linear. One time we see Jamila in prison and the other is a flashback of Jamila before she is arrested. As there are two time settings in the play, there are two Jamilas. JAMILA 1 refers to Jamila in the past, while JAMILA 2 the present.

Ratna Sarumpaet is the founder of One Red Stage (Satu Merah Panggung) theater troupe. She started her career as a television show director in 1991 for the state-owned television channel, TVRI. The themes of trafficking and sex industry not something that she is unfamiliar with as she is also a political activist. She was awarded the Female Human Rights Special Award by the Asia Foundation for Human Rights in 1998. The play is made into a movie, “Jamila and the President”, directed by Sarumpaet herself. It was nominated as a foreign language film for Oscar in 2009.


Raudra, Bibhatsa and Karuna Rasas in the Play

In Natyasastra, raudra rasa is explained as the following:


Now (the rasa) called raudra has anger for its permanent emotion. Demons, monsters and violent men are its characters. It is caused by battles. It arises from (sic) such vibhavas as anger, provocative actions (adharsana), insult (adhiksepa), lies, assaults (upaghata), harsh words, oppression (abhiroha, or according to Abhinava, “murderous intent”) and envy.

Aesthetic Rapture, Vol. I, p. 53

Patnaik shows how raudra can coexist with other rasas, namely vira and karuna in Natyasastra. He also evidenced that anger, one of the determinants of raudra, can cause sorrow and incomprehension. In the case of the latter, anger has the potential to arouse bibhatsa rasa or odious.

The evocation of raudra and vira can be seen in Act 5b. Jamila is shocked and furious when she finds out that her sister Dinda is brutally murdered. She has been missing for two weeks and the police do not take any action. The perpetrators are in fact the police officers. JAMILA 2 tells the officers that she knows why Dinda is murdered. Dinda always refuses ‘the present’ of drugs that is given so that the girls can work all night, ‘serving ten men in one night’.


JAMILA 1 You police officers are losers!!

Only losers can take a way an innocent person’s like

Like Dinda.



Now, whether you want to prosecute me –

Or kill me, the way you

butchered Dinda, it doesn’t matter to me …..

(Act 5b, 47)


Absence of sadness becomes the vibhava of vira rasa. Jamila releases her grief of losing her sister and she is ready to be killed by the police officers who want to keep their reputation. The anubhavas are firmness and heroism. The vira from correct perception also leads to santa as the vibhava of santa is knowledge of Truth (Patnaik 232). Jamila at that point of time realizes that her fate lies on a greater power.

Basically raudra is categorized as a negative rasa, or dukhatmaka according to Abhinavagupta, as it inflicts pain. However, as far as anger and vira rasa are concerned, raudra cannot be easily called negative. The relation between raudra and vira is that, in heroic actions sometimes the elements of fury are apparent (Patnaik 145). Utsaha or dynamic energy (the main sthayibhava of vira) is related to krodha or anger (one of the sthayibhava of raudra). In addition to energy, raudra and vira rasas contain action and correct perception. Anger can actually lead to a state of blindness, where one can do wrong actions or act unreasonably (which is negative). However, the energy in vira is transformed into good deeds, thus vira is a positive rasa.

Raudra rasa can also coexist with bhayanaka and bibhatsa, terrible and odious sentiments. The reason lies on the anubhavas of raudra: ‘beating, breaking, crushing, mutilating, fighting, drawing of blood… red eyes, knitting of eyebrows, defiance, biting of lips, movement of cheeks, pressing one hand with the other, etc’ (Ghosh). Beating, crushing, mutilating and drawing of blood can cause terrible feeling and furthermore disgust or bibhatsa rasa.

Bhibatsa can be evoked from the scene where MRS WARDIMAN regrets the current condition of Jamila. Jamila’s mother puts Jamila under the care of Wardiman family because she thinks it is a respectable family. However, Jamila is abused by MRS WARDIMAN’s husband and son and becomes pregnant. In the beginning of the play, MRS WARDIMAN tells Jamila to name the father of the baby. She says she does not like to see Jamila’s wearing a jilbab or veil. She feels as if she is conspiring with the devil in insulting Jamila’s mother (Opening). She views that the veil is unsuitable for her moral and then she condemns her:


MRS WARDIMAN   Your father – sold you to a pimp

when you’re still green

Dying, your mother kidnapped you

from that pimp and took you here

so that you’re safe.

In a house of a respectable family like this

she hoped you grow up well

And what eventually you become?

You are like destined to be a prostitute.



Then Jamila stands up and becomes stiff. MRS WARDIMAN’s insults are the vibhava of Jamila’s anger. After some more tensions, Jamila cannot take it anymore. She exits and it is implied that she has committed the murder.

After JAMILA 1 murders Nurdin and his son, she wipes the blood in the dagger onto her veil. She looks at the dagger as if seeing ‘a terrible sin’. She is haunted by what she has done. She remembers that her mother regards her birth as ‘light’, a blessing. Her mother talks about ‘purity and self esteem’. Then she asks what purity and self-esteem really are. There is a terrible sentiment at this moment.

The stage focus shifts. When JAMILA 2 is having a conversation with PRISON GUARD, she advices him to look after his daughters because, she says, “The world is full of greed and hypocrisy, and can pollute and trap them.” (Act I). After saying this, she bends her knees and holds her legs tight, looks straight to the front. In this scene the vibhavas of raudra rasa are anger and insult. Jamila realizes that she is talking about herself, that she is part of the greedy world, and that she is “dirty”. According to Ghosh, the vyabhicaribhavas of raudra rasa are presence of mind, determination, energy, indignation, restlessness, fury, perspiration, trembling, horripilation, choking voice, etc’. In this scene, the vyabhicaribhavas are determination, fierce look and harsh voice. Jamila goes on saying:


JAMILA 2  I am one of them, Officer.

I kill people since I was a child.

Since I could not differ the right from the wrong.


And that is terrifying.

(Act 1, p.14)


Her anger is addressed to herself and in her confession she justifies herself. The battle that causes raudra rasa is within herself.

The society considers Jamila as enemy of the country. She signifies the fall of morality and human values. PRISON GUARD reads out the newspaper to Jamila and tells her that an Islamic organization, Nation’s Faith Defender Forum (FPIB), will go for a demonstration at the court with participants of thousands of people. The organization demands that the trial sentences her to death. However, she calls the organization as “hypocrite moralist militants.” The fictitious FPIB actually refers to Islam’s Defenders Front (FPI), an organization which acts against ‘immorality’ on behalf of Islam. With uncivilized behaviour, FPI members raid on bars and nightclubs also destroy alcohol and pornography material especially during Ramadan month. They take the law into their hands and abuses religion. Jamila claims that those people do not understand morals. She instead proposes that they declare her a dignitary of the organization.


Seeing JAMILA 2 being intimate with PRISON GUARD, MRS RIA scolds him and says that his job is to guard the inmate, not to befriend her. Here the vibhava for MRS RIA is jealousy. She does not want Jamila to become a martyr.

However, MRS RIA also sympathizes with JAMILA. She tells her to stop bragging herself because “it may increase [her] punishment” (Act 1). When anger is transformed into violence and destruction, karuna rasa (pathetic sentiment) is evoked. Raudra and karuna have some common anubhavas , for example red eyes and movement of cheeks. In the scene when MRS RIA says that she cares about Jamila, MRS RIA’s face is stiff and her voice is firm—the anubhavas. In the mean time, the vibhava is Jamila’s captivity misfortune, which MRS RIA can feel as she is also a woman. The manifestation of destruction is resulted from her sorrow. This is the intersection between raudra and karuna. In karuna, the effect of sorrow is more important than the cause, while in anger, it is the opposite.

Besides MRS RIA, other people may also pity her. Malik, the LAWYER, tells JAMILA 2 that actually millions of people care about her. They do not want her charge to be interfered with political interests. However, JAMILA 2 is furious with this.

JAMILA 2   Enough! Enough!! Enough !!!!

I told you I don’t need legal defense.

(I, 18)


The reason for her refusal of legal aid from the lawyer is she believes she did the right thing. She killed Nurdin the official with her own hands and she does not regret this. She believes that there is no border between the personal and the public affairs. JAMILA 2 says, “Prostitution is politics… I’m no different from politicians” (Act 1). According to her men boast themselves when they talk about morality. Yet, they are very weak when faced with women’s sexuality. The moral value is not upheld anymore, regardless their social status. She says she hates the society for putting politicians at a high level as if they are heroic and holy.

JAMILA – 2  Mrs Ria, do you know what those clerics

think of people like me?

Hell! …..

Ha ha ha …. (I, 21)


The scene implies that the clerics are disgusted with Jamila. The clerics are moral upholders while Jamila is exactly the opposite. People like Jamila will go to hell. However, we can also read this the other way around, that Jamila finds the clerics disgustful. There is haasya rasa (comic sentiment) caused by the absurdity of the clerics. Discussing John Osborne’s play Look Back in Anger and Allen Ginsberg’s poetry Howl, Patnaik explains that fury is the result of alienation. Jimmy and the ‘I’ feel “the sense of disgust at those who have made these people outcasts” (154). Jugupsa sthayibhava (durable psychological state of disgust) is there and thus bibhatsa rasa (odious sentiment) is also aroused by this scene.

Jamila connects the personal world to the public world. She wants to strategically use her sexuality to disrupt the society. The highest (male) position in the country is at the president. Then she makes her death wish, to sleep with the president, rather than an amnesty from him. This enrages Mrs. Ria. She slaps her and orders her men to take Jamila to isolation room. Yet, when dragged, Jamia laments:

JAMILA 2   Not a single child on earth

Wants to be a prostitute, Mrs Ria.

Not a single child …….. (Act 1, 22)


Her distrust of the world is the reason why she had abortion several times when she is working as a prostitute. She reveals this when MRS DARNO, her ex-pimp, pays her a visit at the prison. Jamila says she does not want her future daughters to meet people like MRS DARNO and be raped legally. Neither does she want them to be sex objects nor accused as the destroyer of the nation’s morals. Revenge, past insults, threats and sexual assaults are the vibhavas of raudra rasa here.

Some women are displeased by Jamila, for example the wives of officials. Two of them come to the prison representing the community of officials’ wives. They ask Jamila’s motive of request to see the president. They feel Jamila is being arrogant. Their manner is the anubhava of raudra. WIVE 2 pulls Jamila’s hair and spits at her.

 Jamila’s hatred of her life and the world is also expressed when a Muslim cleric comes to her cell. He wants to guide her to ask for God’s forgiveness. However, Jamila says that she does not need a cleric to do that because he cannot understand her suffering. She asks sharply why he comes now, why was not he be with her when her father gives her away. With the anubhava of her arms stretched she says:

JAMILA 2    Look, Pak Cleric, look!!

Look how dirty and sinful I am.

And don’t say that you are not also

responsible for all this.

(Act 7, 65)


 As we can see, the main vibhavas or raudra rasa in “The Prostitute and the President” are injustice and oppression. These reasons of Jamila’s anger drive her toward her disbelieve of the world. The murder of Nurdin can be seen as the greatest manifestation of her fury, the anubhava of drawing blood. However, she cannot be categorized as the ‘bad girl’. With feminist approach, Jamila is the hero. She blames her condition on the society that commodifies women’s body. This play is a critique against the state, the law, trafficking, prostitution and religion.



Works Cited

Ghosh, Manmohan (trans.) Natyasastra by Bharata Muni, 1967. Calcutta: Calcutta Oriental Press.

Gnoli, Raniero The Aesthetic Experience According to Abhinavagupta. Varanasi: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series, 1985.

Patnaik, Priyadarshi Rasa in Aesthetics: An Application of Rasa Theory to Modern Western Literature. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld, 1997.

Sarumpaet, Ratna Pelacur dan Sang Presiden (The Prostitute and the President). “Naskah Drama Indonesia” page http://banknaskah-fs.blogspot.com/ downloaded on April 28, 2010.



Surrealism and Indian Aesthetics: Beauty in Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou

by Indah Lestari

In this article I would like to compare Andre Breton’s Surrealism and Indian aesthetics. Then I will use the two traditions to approach Luis Bunuel’s film Un Chien Andalou, one of the best-known surrealist films of the avant garde movement of the 1920s.

Traditionally, art seeks to represent the beauty of nature. Aesthetics, both Western and Eastern, theory attempts to answer the question ‘What is Beauty?’ Beauty is an inspiration in the works of art, it is a subject. Beauty is represented in many kinds of medium, including drama, poetry and film. Anandavardhana argues Nature, when suggested, is more appealing than when plainly stated (in Krishnamoorthy 6). As we will see, Surrealism proposes unconventional concepts of beauty. The quest of beauty in Indian aesthetics deals with what is termed as alankara. It is the body of all art whose invariable property is beauty. Meanwhile, in Surrealist aesthetics the normative idea of beauty is undercut. Surrealism attempts to integrate primordial forces into our waking state in order to transfigure and enhance the way of our perception, communication and response of reality. The dream logic presents loosely related scenes, especially in film form.

Surrealism began as a literary movement in French, with its icon André Breton. In Le Manifeste du Surréalisme, 1924 Breton wrote that logic and reason can only be applied to our secondary interests. we actually filter knowledge based on our experience. even in modern era our minds are still clouded by superstition and myths. Under the light of Freudian psychoanalysis we view our mind as much deeper than « summary realities ». This is where imagination is a significant part of our selves. Breton calls on to capture what is hidden in our mind and then to bring it under rationalism.

Breton very much owes to Freudian psychoanalysis. Freud investigates into DREAMS as it is considered to contain our repressed desire and knowledge. In dreams these elements are represented with less obstruction and interference. Breton argues that in waking state humans succumb to their memory. In memory, dreams are vague and obliterated. dreams are secondary to human life. being the primary element, memory has the power over dreams. our will determines the distinct representation of realities. However, Breton sees that dreams are also a source of important reality. Furthermore, the waking state is interference into the suggestion of dreams. Dreams are freer and more expressive than the mind. It is also subjective. dream is constricted by moral values. In a dream humans can do anything even that is not imaginable in real life. They are released from identity and responsibility. Breton aims at the unification of dream and the mind, which he calls « a surreality ».

Surreality can be compared with Indian aesthetics in terms of words. Apart from dreams, another version of reality can also be represented in a waking state but under different mental state. For example the lost of control over speech in war victims due to trauma. Babble can also produce something expressive. Since it takes the form of words, it is related to literary aesthetics.

There was the illusion of an extra- ordinary verve, a great deal of emotion, a considerable assortment of images of a quality such as we would never have been capable of achieving in ordinary writing, a very vivid graphic quality, and here and there an acutely comic passage

The words are full of « immediate absurdity ». The coinage of the word surrealism–which Breton also defines–is an act to propose a new mode of pure expression. Anna Balakian quoted by Rattray said that « surrealism is in fact intoxication » (161) The “word” for Breton is a hallucinatory stimulant, apart from people, objects, nature’s manifestations. Images are opium. Liberating language paradoxically results in becoming enslaved by it. The poet is a mere vehicle of the words in the shaping of poetic images. Surrealism opens wide the doors of the unconscious. The energy within the unconscious is freed and thus creates poetic intoxication. Watching a surrealist film can be seen with Indian aesthetic theory in terms of the function of the poetic language. As proposed by Bhattanayaka, in addition to abidha or primary meaning, poetic language also functions as bhavakatva, or  freeing oneself from vibhava and sthayibhava, and bhojakatva, or consuming the emotion in the performance/text (Kapoor 22).

Words, or images in a surrealist film are less interconnected. There is hardly continuation from one image to another. Surrealism is driven by automatism and its expression manifests in verbal or written. It relies on free association and the play of thought. Meanwhile, the notion of word is the subject of Bhartrhari’s sphota theory (5th century AD), which posits linguistic sign as an abstract reality (Kapoor 12). The difference here from Surrealism is that there is “fixity in the power of the words” (“Vakyapadiyam of Bhartrhari” 9). The words have eternal relation with their meanings.

The opening scene of Un Chien Andalou

We shall see the relation between sphota and surrealism in the film. Un Chien Andalou (1929), a 17-minute film, is the most analysed film ever. It is surreal as the stories are disjunctive. It brings up the themes of desire, androgynous gender and the unconscious. Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel wrote the film together based on their dreams. Bunuel states that in writing the script, they did not « accept any idea or image that might give rise to a rational, psychological or cultural explanation » (quoted in Russell). The disconnectedness between the word and the meaning can be seen in the movie for example in the image of razor. Razor, by dictionary, means an instrument with blade. In reality it is used to remove unwanted hair from the face or body. However, take a look at the opening scene of Un Chien Andalou, A man (Buñuel himself), smokes a cigarette while sharpening the blade of a razor. He steps onto a balcony and stares at an unobscured moon before prying open woman’s eyelid. A cloud slides across the face of the moon as Buñuel’s razor cuts into the woman’s eye. So the razor has a totally different function, beyond our expectation. Here Buñuel demands that we look at the world with what Vigo calls « a new set of eyes. » This scene may not be pleasant. It induces the viewer both to want to look and not want to look at the same time. We know that the man is about to cut the eyelid as camera goes close-up. It is also beyond our expectation that the woman seems calm as if nothing is going to happen, or the cutting is something ordinary and regular. As the cutting goes on, we may expect to see blood. Yet, what comes out is the transparent jellylike tissue that fills the eyeball behind the lens. This is something very technical and it may be a new knowledge for common audience. Yet, we can still feel beauty in this horrible scene. How the cutting is juxtaposed with the movement of harmless clouds in front of the moon is a creative metaphor that only an artist with pratibha can do.

Disconnectedness also comes to the devices of the film, such as the text that says “Huit ans après” (Eight years later). This information is meaningless because it is irrelevant with regard to the following scene. The same woman is there, with normal eyes, but the scene does not suggest continuity from the previous one. A slim young man bicycles down a calm urban street wearing what appears to be a nun’s habit and a locked box with a strap around his neck. The woman is in the house, not wearing nun’s habit.

ants on palm

Basically most of the images in this surrealist film are disconnected from each other. Their existence appear to be forced or coincidence. The actions are absurd. All this leaves the viewers in confusion, or even delirium. For example the scene where the man is looking at his hand. Ants are emerging from the hole in his palm. A cinematic device of transition is used to suggest the resemblance among the ants, an armpit and a sea urchin. Also the scene where the man drags two pianos by ropes with a dead donkey on top of each and two priests are also tied.  Buñuel has said that Un Chien Andalou was the result of conscious automatism. However, the film is less a dream than an abstraction of a dream filtered through the logic of reality. The symbols in the film can be interpreted in as many ways as the viewer. Automatism contradicts Indian aesthetics in terms of subjectivity. The transfer of rasa from the poet and the director (scriptwriter, etc) to the reader or spectator presupposes dharanikarana, or universalization. They have shared experience (Krishnamoorthy 42). If surrealist images come from personal experience, their meaning are unlikely to be conveyed. The images of the nun, the priests and the Bible are subject to each viewer’s interpretation. From the side of the director, Buñuel was sickened by sex in general. His cinema is a spiritual fetishes. He wrote: « Our imagination, and our dreams, are forever invading our memories; and since we are all apt to believe in the reality of our fantasies, we end up transforming our lies into truths. Of course, fantasy and reality are equally personal, and equally felt, so their confusion is a matter of only relative importance. » Buñuel’s surrealism became the cinematic vehicle for both Marxist ideals and Freudian psychoanalysis. However, the dual function of language in surrealism is paradoxical. The images and words would impact the viewer’s imagination in unpredictably. As words are in free association, they are no bearing in the viewer’s imagination. As the viewer attempt to deduce meaning the torrent of images floods his mind. The images, beyond the laws of reality, cause the viewer to be disoriented because he applies logic. Therefore surrealist images demand imagining consciousness in the grasping of meaning in reality.

If we see the dreamlike images in the film from the perspective of Indian aesthetics, the goal of rasa assumingly cannot be reached. This is because the lack of verisimilitude is one of the obstacles to the realization of rasa (Gnoli 62). The real is opposed to the dream. In Bharata’s Natyasastra (2nd century BC), the rasa theory is important to aesthetics. Rasa is primarily beauty in art. It is the soul of aesthetic emotion or sentiment. Furthermore, rasa can transform ugliness into beauty and give form to the formless (Krishnamoorty 12). There are nine rasa, including srngara, karuna and raudra. At the level of spectator, their emotion and feeling is called bhavas, which is important to perceive the rasa. The circumstance of time and place in the background is called vibhava. Then the strongly felt emotion is externally manifested, which is called anubhava. The durable emotions evoked are sthayibhava, while the auxiliary emotion that reinforces the main emotion is sancaribhava. Despite the binary opposition of the real and the dream, we can still apply the rasa theory to the film. In the opening scene we may identify the sancaribhava such as vitarka (trepidation), nirveda (indifference). The abhinaya can be angika, the body movement of the man and the stillness of the woman. The sattvikabhava is stambha, or paralysis. The sthayibhava may be jugupsa (disgust), bhaya (fear) or krodha (anger). Finally the corresponding rasa would be bibhatsa (odious), bhayanaka (terrifying) and raudra (wrathful, terribleness).

To come back to the inquiry of beauty in art, we recall that art of literary composition is aimed at giving pleasure by evoking some states of mind. It must have good aesthetic quality. Art is also about the representation of the state of mind. Art is deemed as successful if it can move and affect the viewers. This is linked to Indian aesthetic concept of kavyadosa, or fault (Kapoor 93). The faults are listed in Bhamaha’s Kavyalamkara. Surrealist film is not desirable and thus violates many dosas. These include contradictory meaning, redundancy, doubt, nonmaintenance of correlated sequence, and counter-factual. This is still linked to the issue of verisimilitude of artistic works.

Another feature that is comparable is religious and moral values. Kavya, or literary composition, is valued not for sabda (form, sound) nor artha (content), but rather the manner of expression. Kavya is even regarded as the fifth veda in Natyasastra, as it is expected to give guidance of life and serious thoughts to common people. thus it is also a means of knowledge (Kapoor 84). Philosophically surrealism also provides solution to the problems of life. This is because of the history of surrealism itself. The birth of Surrealism is due to the devastation of World War I and the revolution in science and technology. According to the Surrealists, the dream contains meaningful symbolic representations, and its analogical method of communicating truth is best approximated within the aesthetics of film. Thus, the Surrealists embrace the cinematic potential for channeling and reproducing the omnipotent “dreamlike” mysteries of life. Within film, much like the dream, the contradictory aspects of the universe intermingle, as life is at once death, illusion is truth, night is day, and opposites coexist in a state of unified tension, and all this without facing the tribunal of “logic”. Thus, the ninth rasa, santa (tranquil) can be also be achieved in a complicated way. This is because rasa experience is regarded as a cognitive process. Rasa theory is deeply rooted in the empirical human reality. And surrealism apparently can be the means of rasa realization.

Anandavardhana’s dhvani theory in Dhvanyaloka (9th century AD) is about verbal symbolism. Dhvani is the resonance of meaning that remains in the mind of the hearer, causing the continuous recovering of new meanings from the text. This theory poses that the indirect meaning of literary works, or suggestion, is the characteristic that distinguish the literary works from rational discourse. There are three levels of meaning: abidha, laksana and vyanjana. These are, respectively, literal meaning; socio-cultural meaning, and the meaning determined by situation, propriety, and form. In addition to the context, this tertiary meaning is also shaped by linguistic factors such as intonation, gestures and sounds. The poetry of suggestion becomes the highest kind of poetry (Kapoor 21). The departure from rational discourse in dhvani theory is also found in Surrealism. Surrealism rejects the ratio and produces images with so many layers of meaning. Meaning from artistic works becomes knowledge. In Indian aesthetics, what constitutes the knowledge of literary work is the understanding of bhava. Bhavas derive from the experience of events. No meaning is possible without rasa. Experience in a literary composition (rasa-bhava) is the structure of the states of being. As being comprises emotional conditions, the rasa theory is based on the non-opposition between emotion and reason (Kapoor 103). Thus surrealist art can evoke rasa as it blends the two factors, emotion and reason. The artist may be subjective in presenting the images, but the viewers can also select out of the images. The object of literary works is the emotional effect of human experience.

The comparison between surrealism and Indian theory may also be seen in terms of the objects in Nature. In Indian perspective, the object is imbued with Brahman. The artist’s mind attaches itself to the object in reverence and love. The creative process is yoga, the system of altering/heightening/unifying consciousness by freeing all cognitions through intense mental concentration that merges the subject-object and eliminate the sense from the process of knowledge (Kapoor 81). In Surrealism, the artist also frees himself from cognition. The difference is the emphasis of dreams.




Alquie, Ferdinand. The Philosophy of Surrealism. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1965.

Gnoli. R. The Aesthetic Experience According to Abhinavagupta. Varanasi: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office, 1985.

Kapoor, Kapil. Literary Theory: Indian Conceptual Framework. New Delhi: Affiliated East-West Press Private Limited, 1998.

Koller, Michael. « Un Chien Andalou”. Senses of Cinema. 8 May, 2011.

Krishnamoorty, K. Indian Literary Theories: A Reappraisal. New Delhi: Meharchand Lachhmandas Publications, 1985.

Rattray, Jacqueline « The Hallucinogenic Power of Language: Jose Maria Hinojosa’s Textos Oniricos » André Breton: The Power of Language. Ed. Ramona Fotiade. Exeter: Elm bank Publication, 2000.

Russell, Dominique. « Luis Bunuel » Senses of Cinema http://www.sensesofcinema.com/2005/great-directors/bunuel/#b10

Waldberg, Patrick Surrealism (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971), pp. 66-75.

Vakyapadiyam of Bhartrhari

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Comparative Analysis between Bhatta Nayaka’s and Shri Sankuka’s Rasa-Sutra and Two of T.S. Eliot’s Essays

Bhatta Nayaka was in the tradition of non-dualism school. Bhatta Nayaka’s theory regarding the interpretation of Braharata Muni’s Natyasastra marks the shift of the locus of rasa from the characters, as believed by critics up to the tenth century, to the spectators.

In term of the relation between the phenomena of literature and its effect on human emotion, the formalist views that rasa is manifested in the characters. This is because the formalist focuses on the text. However, the question of how the spectators perceive rasa arises. Bhatta Nayaka critiqued the formalist’ view by focusing on the spectator’s subjective experience while engaging with literary work. Abhinavagupta says that according to Bhatta Nayaka, rasa “is neither perceived (prati), nor produced (utpad), nor manifested (abhivyaj)”. The key to his concept is bhavana, a particular combination of determinants and consequents. Rasa is inherent in the text. It matures into art, more objectified experience. In drama, the spectator’s experience is internal. Rasa occurs when the spectator becomes one with what he is watching.

Shri Sankuka interpreted that Rasa originates by anumiti i.e. inference. According to him art cannot be an ordinary imitation but a kind of an indirect Inference. Hence the sthayi bhava of the character, which is inferred by the actor, is called Rasa. Sthayi bhava cannot be imitated because an actor does not himself experience the pain of the character. There is a distance between the two. The actor must create, by his ability, a mental state in order to act on the stage. Thus Sri Sankuka interprets the Rasa Sutra to mean that the basic mental state inferred from vibhavas and anubhavas. Meanwhile, vibhavas and anubhavas in T.S. Eliot are emotions and feelings. The text or poem is a transcript of personal feelings. The process of the fusion between feelings and emotions determines the artistic level of the poem.

Shri Sankuka put the stress on the role of the spectator. As he is trained in Nyaya school (logician), he viewed rasa not from the perspective of the production of aesthetic object, but rather the matter out of which the aesthetic experience comes. Everything is made of a form; therefore the self is the substance. But in Eliot’s “Tradition and Individual Talent”, a poet is a medium of channeling and elaborating tradition. Eliot argues that a writer cannot be separated from the literary tradition before him. He has “a consciousness of the past”. A poet must embody, in the context of English literature, “the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer” while expressing his present day spirit. However, this does not mean that the poet surrenders to repetition. As he creates, he appropriates the established literary traditions. His work will change the way of seeing the works of art that preceded it. This is what Eliot calls ‘impersonal theory’ of poetry.

Eliot’s disassociation of sensibility also appears in his essay “The Metaphysical Poets”. The term refers to the way in which intellectual thought was separated from the experience of feeling in late seventeenth century. This is contrasted to the group of poets in the sixteenth and early seventeenth century, who “constantly amalgamating disparate experience” and therefore express their thoughts through the experience of feeling. In “Hamlet and His Problems” Eliot presents the concept of “objective correlative” in this essay. The expression of emotion in art can be achieved by a set of objects. Then a particular emotion is evoked through the presentation of its correlated objective sign and the author is depersonalized. The sign, rather than the poet, creates emotion. We can hear the echo of this theory in “Tradition and Individual Talent” as well when Eliot says that “The business of the poet is not to find new emotions, but to use the ordinary ones and, in working them up into poetry, to express feelings which are not in actual emotions at all.” The poet is objective in the sense that he is not expressing his personality in his poetry, but rather escaping from it. Writing poetry must be done consciously and deliberately. It requires tranquility. Meaning is distorted.

Moving on to the spectator, in Shri Sankuka’s theory of rasa, the means of knowledge is perception. Knowledge must be transformed into inference. We also find the notion of reproduction, that what the actor reproduces has to be cognized. This is due to the distance of the spectator. The objective cognition has to become a part of the spectator’s consciousness. It cannot be directly perceived either through language or movement.