|This article does not cite any references or sources. (July 2011)|
Cover of the Faber edition
|Written by||Tom Stoppard|
|Place premiered||Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford|
|Subject||India, art, poetry|
|Setting||India in the 1930s; India and England in the 1980s|
Indian Ink is a 1995 play by Tom Stoppard based on his 1991 radio play In the Native State. The stage version of Indian Ink had its first performance at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, and opened at the Aldwych Theatre, London, on February 27, 1995. The production was directed by Peter Wood and designed by Carl Toms. The play had its American premiere in 1999 at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, California, directed by Carey Perloff (see 1999 in literature).
In 1930, the year of Gandhi's Salt March, British poet Flora Crewe travels to India for her health. Flora is a thoroughly modern girl who has modeled for Modigliani, hobnobbed with communists, and been accused of obscenity for the racy book A Nymph and Her Muse. In India her portrait is painted by the Indian artist Nirad while she fends off the attentions of a dashing but dimwitted scion of the British Raj. But her bravado hides the knowledge that she is severely ill with tuberculosis.
In the 1980s, American academic Eldon Pike seeks out Flora's younger sister Eleanor to discover the truth about the end of the poet's life — she died in India soon after meeting Nirad. Eleanor, who married an Englishman she met at Flora's grave and became a staunch Tory, reveals little to the scholar, sending him off on a wild goose chase tracing Flora's path through India. But she is more welcoming to Nirad's son Anish, who also comes looking for answers. Eleanor shows Anish a painting by Nirad done partly in a classical Indian style, and partly in the style of Western realism. The painting's erotic symbolism convinces him that his father and Flora were lovers before she died.
Among the play's themes is the contrast of Indian and European styles of poetry and visual art. Nirad explains to Flora the classical Indian theory of nine rasas, which are tonal schemes uniting all forms of art. Each rasa is associated with a colour, a mood, and a musical scale. The play's title refers to Shringara, the rasa of erotic love, which is associated with an inky blue-black colour and the god Krishna, who is always painted with dusky blue skin. Flora is at first puzzled by this artistic tradition, but on falling in love with Nirad she realizes, "It is the colour he looked by moonlight."
The play shares with other Stoppard plays of the 90s the theme of nostalgia and romantic loss, with Flora as the lost beloved corresponding to Thomasina in Arcadia and Moses in The Invention of Love. And like those two plays, it cuts back and forth between characters in two time periods sharing the same set. Stoppard has given director Peter Wood partial credit for developing the structure of the play with its two intertwined storylines.
Art Malik has been closely associated with the play, taking the role of Nirad in the original London production and in the 1999 American premiere which took place at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. Felicity Kendal originated the role of Flora, originally in the radio play and then on stage. Jean Stapleton was Eleanor in the American premiere.