Problem of Communal Divide and Communal Tension in Mahesh Dattani’s Final Solutions

Article Posted in: Research Articles


 By – C K Uma Devi, Vol.III Issue-XXIV January 2017

Introduction to the Author:

C. K. Uma Devi is working as an assistant professor in Govindammal Aditanar College for Women, Tiruchendur, Tamil Nadu. Her research area covers the plays of Mahesh Dattani and Vijay Tendulkar. She is specialized in Indian writing in English.



Mahesh Dattani’s Final Solutions focuses on the problem of communal disharmony between the Hindus and Muslims in India, especially during the period of the post- partition riots. The psychosis that prevails among the Hindus as well as Muslims in India, after the event of the partition of the country, cause a chain of neurotic reactions to even the most inconsequential of happenings. The play moves from the partition to the present day communal riots; probes into the religious bigotry by examining the attitudes of three generations of a middle-class Gujrati business family, Hardika the grandmother, Ramnik her son and Sumita her granddaughter. Revolving around three generations, the events in the play unfold at a swift pace, weaving the post-independence partition riots, with the communal riots of today in a common strand. Memory plays an important role in the play as reminiscences of the characters develop the plot. In the play, the mob is a symbol of the communal hatred. It deals with the burning issues of Hindu-Muslim hatred; the mind set of suspicion towards each other and tries to suggest that attributes of prejudice and misperception have much to do in escalating such problems. It is obvious that communal unrest arises from highlighting the differences between these two religious groups. Once they are made to acknowledge their identity as human beings first and then Hindus or Muslims, there will be no problems. Therefore one of the solutions is that religion is only something superficial as mask and can be donned or taken off at will.

Keywords: Psychosis, marginalized, vegetarianism, communalism, demonisation



Mahesh Dattani is a leading dramatist in Indian Drama in English. He is the first Indian playwright in English who has been awarded the ‘Sahitya Academi’ award for his contribution to world drama. He was born on August 7, 1958 in Bangalore. His parents originally belong to Gujarat but they came to Bangalore for business purposes and settled there. After completing his school and college educations at Bangalore, he joined with his father in his business activities. He has an intrinsic attachment to dance and theatre too. He watched many Gujarati plays and Kannada plays, which gave him the idea of theatre. He has a keen interest not only in theatre but also in dancing. He started his career as an actor in dramas and played many lead roles in various Indian English plays and British plays. He founded ‘Playpen’, a theatre company in 1984 to perform the plays particularly the Indian plays. After this, he devoted himself to directing plays. He first directed the play, God in 1986. He directed almost all of his plays. Later on, he moved towards writing plays and the result is Where There’s a Will. In this play, he also worked as an actor. Thus he started his career as an actor, he moved to direct and then to write plays. His important plays are God, Where There’s a Will, Dance Like A Man, Tara, Bravely Fought The Queen, Final Solutions, On A Muggy Night In Mumbai, etc. In his plays, Dattani deals with the fringe issues and marginalized people within the society and his themes extend from child abuse, homosexuality and hijra communities to the other taboo subjects and social riots. His themes and the characters are chosen from the Indian society but he raises them to the universal level.

Dattani’s Final Solutions is a three-act play which handles the theme of communal riots and forced resentments. It was first performed at Guru Nanak Bhavan, Bangalore on 10 July 1993. In India, the co-existence of multi-religions and multi-cultures has been a curious topic for the world. But the confrontations of Hindus and Muslims has been a dynamic issue more than the other religions to each other. Hindus and Muslims depict their own statement to prove their superiority and Dattani depicts this in Final Solutions. The play opens with two Muslim young boys Bobby and Javed seeking shelter in the house of the Hindu family of Ramnik Gandhi, from the chasing mob, during a hostile atmosphere and curfew followed by Hindu- Muslim riot in the city. With the entry of two Muslim young boys within the house, the familial drama begins. Here, the different religions, cultures, food habits, attitudes, resentments to each other, personal whims and psyches confront each other. Dattani takes the opportunity to move free into the time and closely scrutinize all such riots in the past and their influences to shape the characters and communities. He tear opens the tapestries of illusions of the characters and exposes the truth behind their social, cultural and religious patterns. The present study aims at the study of the problem of communal divide and communal riot in the Indian society through the play Final Solutions.

Mahesh Dattani’s Final Solutions focuses on the problem of communal disharmony between the Hindus and Muslims in India, especially during the period of the post- partition riots. The play starts with Daksha reading lines from her diary. The setting suggests that the period is late 1940’s. Daksha is the mother of the central character of the play Ramnik Gandhi. She shuttles between her two identities, namely that of a girl of fifteen and that of a matured lady who has witnessed forty years of freedom. The chorus chanting at the back sometimes assumes Hindu masks and sometimes Muslim ones. The words rendered by the chorus are clear indicators of the communal disharmony and its painful consequences that are soon to be experienced by the characters in the play. The masks have leaving effects on minds of the characters who wear them.

              Final Solutions talks of the problems of cultural hegemony, how Hindus has to suffer at the hands of Muslim majority like the characters of Hardika and Daksha in Hussain’s hand, and how Muslim like Javed suffers in the set up of the major Hindu community. This all resulted in communal riots and culminated in disruption of the normal social life, and thus hampered the progress of nation. The locale of the play is Ramnik’s house and the central characters are his daughter Smita, wife Aruna and mother Hardika, besides himself and the two Muslim boys Bobby and Javed who entered into his house during communal tension occasioned by the attack on the Rath Yatra procession. In the beginning, Daksha recollects from her diary about the past when she was married at the age of fourteen. And now after forty years Daksha has become Hardika but her prejudice against the other community continues to be with her. Javed, as Bobby tells Ramnik, became a fanatic because he was ill-treated by persons of another faith and hired by the hooligans to spread communal violence. This creates the problem of communal divide in our country.

Dattani attempts a balancing act in tracing the malady of communal disharmony. The ground he treads is full of mines ready to explode, as this involves the fanatic elements within the Hindu and the Muslim communities. It is obvious to all that people are paid to create political instability and cause communal riots to fan distrust and suspicion that tear the social fabric. Inevitably the politicians exploit the susceptibilities of the two communities on sensitive issues. In the play, the chorus is an expedient device used brilliantly to provide the commentary on the way communal provocation instigates mindless mob violence. There is always someone to light the fire of violence. The play illustrates how the notions of pollution, food, kitchen habits and fear of contamination by touch become repeated instances of communal clashes. The characters in the play motivate us to think that angry outbursts lead to chain reaction. As long as the characters are on stage as individuals, they are fine; but behind the masks they represent the faceless, mindless mob, thirsting for blood. Anger and violence take their toll on both groups. The chorus with Hindu masks bursts with angry words. There are indications of political mischief and deliberate instigation. Nobody thinks the land belongs to all Indians. One community hates another. One community is in the majority, the other is in the minority. Consequently, the two communities are at loggerheads, living in an atmosphere of conflict and acrimony.

The mob in the play is symbolic of our hatred and paranoia. Each member of the mob is an individual yet they meld into one seething whole as soon as politicians play on their fears and anxieties. The fears and anxieties of the two communities can be traced to the partition. There is Muslim sensitivity to music being played near a mosque. There is Hindu sensitivity in matters of general Muslim food habits that go against vegetarianism. There are fears of contamination. Politicians exploit most of these things and hired goons to help them. Sooner voices like Bobby’s are drowned, ignored and brushed aside. Pent up feelings take a violent shape. Dattani exposes the fundamentalists and orthodox persons who use religion as a cover to realize their selfish interest. Religion is a mere ploy in their hands to further their interest in life and cherished their desired goal. Identity politics underlying the Hindu-Muslim tension in India has to be clearly grasped to explain the causes of communal riots as well as large scale killings that have taken place in recent years. There is a serious socio-political problem plaguing our nation today is the communal disharmony between Hindus and Muslims. Dattani, in this play, deals with the recurring rhetoric of hatred, aggression, the monetary and political exploitation of communal riots, the chauvinism and patriarchal mindset of the fundamentalist, in the context of India in the 1940s interspersed with the contemporary India.

The play is about a simple Hindu family which is suddenly faced with a lot of questions when two Muslim boys seek refuge in their house during the communal riots. Thus begins the quest for the truth of their beliefs by their father, mother, daughter and grandmother. The story is juxtaposed deftly between two time periods – the present and the past and finally throws light on the beliefs of even those who consider themselves very liberal. Daksha closes her diary and Hardika appears on the stage. Past and present is fused on stage through the figures of Daksha and Hardika. Ramnik Gandhi seems to be a very liberal-minded person towards the Hindu-Muslim relationships and does not like Hardika’s telling his daughter that “those people are all demons”. Aruna is a typical Gujarati house wife doing ‘pooja – path’ everyday, praying constantly “our Krishna will protect us”. She is a God-fearing woman and thinks that her Krishna will do everything smooth and peaceful one day. Her mother-in-law Hardika could not forget what was happened before forty years during partition and does not believe Muslims at all. She is an epitome of those hateful thoughts towards them, as any fanatic Hindu would be. The following lines spoken by Baa/Hardika clearly show her fears of both past days and the coming days, when the two Muslim boys come to Ramnik to take shelter while riots outside:

This time it wasn’t the people with the sticks and stones. It was those two boys running away who frightened me. Those two who were begging for their lives. Tomorrow they will hate us for it. They will hate us for protecting them. Asking for help makes them feel they are lower than us. I know! All those memories came back when I saw the pride in their eyes! I know their wretched pride! It had destroyed me before and I was afraid it would destroy my family again. They don’t want equality. They want to be superior. (P.172)

In Final Solutions, Dattani shows how the seed of riot is sowed and some vested groups reap its fruit. He also discusses the role of politician, police and public at the time of communal riot. The common people who live together for years, at the moment of riot, suddenly cease to recognize one another and become enemy on the ground of religion. They never realize that they are loser and politicians snatch the opportunity to gain power. This special community utilizes the opportunity to make a profit. Dattani demonstrates that the major cause of difference endangered by the two leading communities in our country is their sense of superiority. The Hindus always think that they are superior to the Muslims and the Muslims think the same. This causes a big chasm in their relation. The scarcity of religious tolerance is the leading factor for generating a breach in the society. The sentiment of two different groups can be traced in the chorus of the play Final Solutions:

Chorus 1          : The procession has passed through these lanes every year. For

forty years!

Chorus 2, 3      : How dare they ?

Chorus 1,2,3    : For forty years our chariot has moved through their mohallas.

Chorus 4,5       : Why did they ? Why did they today ?

Chorus 1          : How dare they?

Chorus 2,3       : They broke our Rath. They broke our chariot and felled our


Chorus 1,2,3    : This is our land! How dare they ?

Chorus 1          : It is in their blood!

Chorus 2,3       :It is in their blood to destroy!

Chorus 4          : Why should they?

Chorus 5          : It could have been an accident.

Chorus 2          : The stone that hit our God was no accident!

Chorus 3          : The knife that slit the poojari’s stomach was no accident.


In Final Solutions, communal riot breaks due to disturbance of procession. In most of the cases the matter of dispute is very simple. But due to involvement of some unsocial elements, it takes the shape of communalism and later on it is distorted and ultimate result is communal violence. During communal riots, mankind undergoes tremendous spiritual losses, during and after riot. Respect for life, dignity of humanity, love for truth and justice, fellow feeling and brotherhood are mercilessly butchered in riot. The propaganda, based on falsehood, has its hayday during riot. People lose not only their bodies but also their souls. It is a great catastrophe to humanity. As Bobby says:

A minor incident changed all that… We were playing cricket on our street… The   postman… was in a hurry and asked Javed to hand the letter over to the owner. Javed took the letter… and opened the gate… a voice boomed, ‘What do you want?’ Javed holding out the letter… his usual firmness vanishing in a second. ‘Leave it on the wall’, the voice ordered. Javed backed away, really frightened… the man came out with a cloth… wiped the letter before picking it up, he then wiped the spot on the wall the letter was lying on and he wiped the gate! We all heard a prayer bell, ringing continuously. Not loud. But distinct … We’d heard the bell so often every day of our life that it didn’t mean anything… but at the moment… we all heard only the bell… The next day… I found… Someone had dropped pieces of meat and bones into his backyard. (P.200)

So it is not necessary that communal riot begins only when a group remarks badly on other group. But the way of working can also infuriate the other community. If any problem arises between different communities, it can be sorted out by talk. But still, some people fan the objectionable remarks on their community and its result is communal riot. The first stage of communalism lies in the ideology that the people of the same religion have the same ideology and the same interest. The vested people involve themselves in spreading such ideology and divide the society on the basis of religion. Such type of feeling compels the other community to do the same and thus the cactus of communalism comes on the ground. The ill-treatment of Javed by a man hurts Bobby and he also becomes angry and expresses his anger before Ramnik :

Ramnik : …you didn’t throw meat into your neighbour’s backyard.

Bobby   : That’s because I was ashamed of being myself. He wasn’t.

Ramnik : Ashamed ?

Bobby   : Yes. Like being apologetic. For being who I was. And pretending that I

was not a part of my community. For thinking that I could become

superior by not belonging… I chose to be called Bobby. (P.201)

Daksha hates Muslims because her father was killed in a communal riot, and because her overtures of friendship to Zarine, a young Muslim girl, were rejected after other communal riots that razed Zarine’s father’s shop, and which incidentally, was bought by Daksha’s father-in-law. Javed, the young Muslim fundamentalist and member of a ‘gang’ has long nursed a resentment against the world because of the ‘otherness’ and the demonisation of his community and religious identity by the dominant community. Ramnik Gandhi, Daksha’s son is trying to atone for the sins committed by his father and grandfather, and therefore becomes a conscious ‘secularist’. Daksha tells us about the riots in which her father was killed, how she and her mother took refuge from the flying stones in the pooja room, and how her faith in God, represented by the idol of Krishna was suddenly gone, never to return. These things have not changed that much after forty years too, as the play has opened in the midst of another riot, and a curfew is on in the small town of Amargaon where the Gandhis live. Daksha’s diary has the usual retellings of communal hatred and desecration of religious signifiers.

Daksha’s last visit to Zarine’s place is an example of hospitality that asks names. She went to see her friend without knowing that her husband and father-in-law had secretly planned to overtake their business and reduced their shop to ashes. Zarine commits violence by inviting Daksha to their dining table, knowing full well that the sight and smell of beef would injure her. Daksha throws up and is helped by her domestic servant who surmises that she has eaten beef :  domestic violence and captivity follows. In all her life she never got to know of the secret deal that changed her life forever. Daksha and Hardika become one in their resentment of the other:

Daksha      : (banging on the door) I promise! I won’t do it again!

Hardika     : Confined. Never let out of the house. Like a dog that had gone mad!

Daksha      : (hysterically) Let me out!

Hardika     : I hate the way you look! I hate the way you dress! I hate the way you

eat! (P.223)

Final Solutions is a problem play, for it deals with the communal tension of our society. The violence perpetuated by the communal people in our society affects family life and that is dramatized in the characters of Smita, Ramnik Gandhi, Aruna, Bobby and Javed. The same character Daksha with two names (Daksha and Hardika) shows how the attitude of the same person to communal tension has changed over the years. Two Muslim boys, Bobby and Javed take shelter in Ramnik’s house during communal violence in the town. The dialogue between these two boys with the members of Ramnik’s family reveals the deep-rooted distrust between two communities. Aruna, Ramnik’s wife argues with her husband and daughter, Smita against giving them shelter in their house when Aruna forbids Bobby and Javed to touch the water with which she bathes the Gods. It shows the attitude of Aruna to her religion. The relationship among the members of Ramnik’s family is affected by the communal feelings prevalent in our society. But Dattani works out a solution by making people understand the evil inherent in such kind of communal hatred between two major communities in our country.

Final Solutions has a powerful contemporary resonance as the central issue of communalism is of the utmost concerns of our society. Presenting different shades of communalist attitudes prevalent among Hindus and Muslims, the play attempts to underline the stereotypes influencing the collective sensibility of one community against another. Moving from partition to the present day communal riots, Final Solutions examines the attitudes of three generations of a Gujrati business family. The events in the play unfold at a swift pace, weaving the post-independence partition riots, with the communal riots of today in a common strand.

In the context of the play, the fears and anxieties of the two communities are largely an aftermath of the partition, but in conservative Hindu homes there has always been a tacit dislike for and disapproval of everything associated with Muslims to the extent that everything touched by the latter is considered to be contaminated. Muslims too, are conscious of the antipodal position they assume in a Hindu community and are equally averse to the Hindu. This mutual aversion of the two communities for each other in India is not overplayed but is depicted with a rare fidelity which spells absolute conviction. Dattani’s great contribution to Indian English drama can be depicted in the play, Final Solutions. It is a very significant play by Dattani especially in the present scenario of India and critics have suggested that this play should be translated into every Indian language and performed throughout the country.

                                                        Works Cited

Agarwal, Dipti. The Plays of Mahesh Dattani – A Study In Thematic Diversity And Dramatic  Technique. New Delhi: Discovery Publishing House, 2013.

Das, Bijay Kumar. Form and Meaning in Mahesh Dattani’s Plays. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers, 2012.

Dattani, Mahesh. Collected  Plays. New Delhi: Penguin Books of India, 2000.

Joshipura, Pranav. A Critical Study Of Mahesh Dattani’s Plays. New Delhi: Sarup Book Publishers, 2009.

Mukherjee, Tutun. The Plays Of Mahesh Dattani – An Anthology Of Recent Criticism. New Delhi: Pencraft International, 2012.

Multani, Angelie. Mahesh Dattani’s Plays – Critical Perspectives. New Delhi: Pencraft International, 2007.

Singh, Pramod Kumar. Social Maladies In The Works Of Mahesh Dattani. New Delhi: Sarup Book Publishers, 2012.

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