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Bhana – Sanskrit Drama – Humor As Main Content

Bhana is one of the ten types of Sanskrit drama, with humor as its main content. The Bhana extends only through one Act, and only one character appears on the stage. This actor, besides making his own speeches, imitates the speeches of all other characters as well, who, however, do not appear on the stage. The theme of such plays if of profane nature, and the actor who appears on the stage belongs to the middle social order, such as a vita (a jester acquainted in music and dance), or a dhurta (gay knave).

In a hilarious mood, accompanied with much gesticulation and laughter, the actor would commence speaking boastfully about his own adventures in life and decry others. In the course of play, he would place his hand around his ears and, pretending to hear the voices of others off stage, would speak out such prefatory statements as “Are you saying so?” or “Are you asking me a question?” He would repeat the words of the speakers in the same tone, tenor and voice, and give out his answers and views in a hilarious manner, provoking laughter from the audience. Besides offering answers to questions supposed to be asked off stage, he would pose his own questions and answer them as if he got them off stage.

To become an actor who would play the role of a bhana, a person would require great ingenuity, active movements, ability to imitate voices, both male and female, and the intelligence to put appropriate questions.

Bhana are popular among the common people. The most noteworthy among the bhanas are Ubhaya Abhisarika of Vararuchi, Dhurta-vita-samvada of Ishwaradatta, Padataditakam of Syamilaka, Padmaprabhrtikam of Sudraka, Rasavadana of Yuvaraja and Sringaresadana of Nalla Dishita.