Infatuation with the West : the case of Ja'far Khan
With no doubt, staging Hassan Moghaddam’s play Ja’far Khan Returns from the West in 1922 contributed a lot to improving the modern theater movement in Iran. Before this drama, the Iranian theater was pressing for a compelling pattern to free this old genre from the old structures of theater and provide it with the opportunity to explore novel areas. In traditional Iranian theatre, the dramatic expression was mostly in the form of dance and mime; puppetry, and Islamic religious epic drama (ta`ziyeh-khvani). Ja’far Khan Returns from the West opens up a new window to the traditional Iranian theatre and helps with establishing the fundamental principles of modern theatre in Iran. Moghaddam does not focus on the stories of kings as in the old comic theatre; nor narrates elegies or reenacts the martyrdom of Imam Hossein. The author, on the other hand, rather than depicting stories about old Persia, tries to address and criticize one of the major issues of his own time: the infatuation of the majority of young Iranians with the West; their alienation from their own culture; their devotion to assimilation with the West and taking it as a model; their belief in surrendering to the Western civilization totally and unconditionally. Unfortunately although the play became one of the most celebrated pieces at the time, after its author’s early death, Moghaddam’s works and influence gradually diminished. Even in landmarks of theatre history in Iran, little effort is devoted to introducing the late author to the new generation of theatre enthusiasts. This paper seeks to bring the significance of Hassan Moghaddam and his works, especially Ja’far Khan Returns from the West, into attention and discuss the importance of the play in general and its relation to westernization in particular.