the middle of the 19th century the Western literature and the
feelings of nationalism and pride of the glorious past of the
country equally influenced Indian Theatre. Indian theatre and
drama got a new footing, when Sangeet Natak Akademi was started in January
1953. Later, the National School of Drama under the
directorship of Ebrahim Alkazi did much for the growth and
promotion of modern Indian theatre.
the 1960s, by suitable mixing of various styles and techniques
from Sanskrit, medieval folk and western theatre, the modern
Indian theatre was given a new, versatile and broader approach at
every level of creativity. Among other pioneers of the dramatic
revival are Ranchhodbhal and Nanalla Kavi in Gujarat, Verasalingam,
Guruzada Appa Rao and Ballary Raghavachari in Telugu, Santakavi
Varadachari and Kailasam in Kannada, Laxminath Bezharua in
Assamese, Kerala Varma Thampuran and C.V.Raman Pillai in
Malayalam, Ramshankar Rai and Kalicharan Patnaik in Oriya and
P.Sambandha Mudaliar in Tamil.
year 1972 turned out to be a landmark for the Indian vernacular
theatre when Vijay Tendulkar's Marathi play 'Ghashiram Kotwal' made waves by its brilliant use of traditional
folk forms in modern contemporary theatre. This led to the birth
of a new breed of directors like B. V. Karanth, Habib Tanvir,
Bansi Kaul and Rattan Thiyyam. Feroz Khan is another accomplished
playwright who has to his credit several outstanding plays like Tumhari
Amrita, Mahatma vs.
Gandhi and Salesman
Ramlal. The last
play is a Hindi adaptation of Arthur Miller's Death
of a Salesman.
Calcutta, the Hindi theatre got a boost with the launching of the
theatre group Ranga Karmee in 1976 by Usha Ganguly and her
husband Kamal Ganguly.
A Scene from the play
the recent years the country has also produced talented
playwrights who have chosen English as their medium. Manjula
Padmanabhan was the first Indian to earn international acclaim
with her play 'Bitter
Harvest' , a futuristic play that deals with the exploitation
of the human body in the 21st century, which won the highest Greek
honour. Another talented upcoming playwright is Mahesh Dattani who
has produced thirteen plays, including one play called Do
The Needful for the BBC. He touched upon the sensitive issue
of communalism in his play 'Final Solutions', which won him the Sahitya Akademi Award.
the emergence of cinema had given an elbow jerk to the popularity
of theatre as the main medium of popular entertainment, several
film personalities themselves had contributed for the growth and
promotion of theatre. They
include Arvind Deshpande, Vijaya Mehta, Jabbar Patel, Satyadev
Dube, Vaman Kendre, Dr Shriram Lagoo, Girish Karnad, Pearl
Padamsee, Amol Palekar, Shashi Kapoor, Satish Kaushik, Farooq
Shaikh, Naseeruddin Shah, Jaya Bacchan (Dr.
Mukta, Ma Retire Hoti Hai) and Shabana Azmi (Tumhari
Amrata, Waiting Room).
continues to attract a new bread of young and talented actors,
directors and playwrights. Anahita Uberoi, who is the daughter of
the legendary Marathi theatre artist Vijaya Mehta, is one such
upcoming and talented theatre personality who has acted in several
noteworthy plays like Glass
Menagerie, Seascape with Sharks, Dancer and Going
Solo. Sanjana Kapoor, daughter of Shashi Kapoor, is another
such artiste who manages the Prithvi Theatre and provides a
platform to several newcomers.
children's play The Boy Who Stopped Smiling has recently completed 100 shows
throughout India. Chetan
Datar is a young and acclaimed playwright and director of Marathi
theatre. His Gandhi-Ambedkar
ran for more than 80 shows. Rajat Kapoor, who is associated with Chingari,
a leading theatre group of Delhi, has translated into Hindi Waiting
for Godot, The Taming of the Shrew and Jean Genet's The Maids and Deathwatch. He has also produced a highly dramatized
play C for Clown.
Tara Deshpande has acted in Once
Upon A Fleeting Bird, which is an English adaptation of Vijay
Tendulkar's Ashi Pakhare
Yeti. The play was screened recently during the Indo-American
festival held in New York.
Padamsee, the daughter of Alyque and Pearl Padamsee, has a fancy
for producing plays targeted at young kids. Her important plays in
this category include Alladin
and his Magic Lamp, Alibaba and the Forty Thieves and
Babloo the Bear. She
draws the stars mainly from her immensely popular 'Little Actors
Club', which trains pre-teens for professional acting. She also
did plays with serious themes like Betrayal,
Games People Play, Acts of Faith and
Extremities. Royston Abel bagged the first prize at the
Edinburgh Fringe Festival for his role in the play Othello
-- A Play in Black & White.
He is coming up with another play called Goodbye
All India Radio was also instrumental in popularising drama for a
long time through its national and regional broadcasts. The
Television also provided the much-needed succour to the theatre
artistes by way of Tele-serials and Mega-serials and Soap Operas.
However, today there are relatively few commercial theatre
companies in India. Calcutta is said to have the most,
approximately 3,000 registered amateur groups, Mumbai has around
500, and Chennai has about 50 while Delhi has got hardly a dozen.
Some serious theatre groups like the Indian National
Theatre, the Prithvi Theatre, Chingari and others are contributing
greatly to popularise theatre.
Some of these companies, like the Prithvi
Theatre have gone online, making themselves known globally by
utilizing the explosion in the information technology.
any discussion about the future of theatre in India, people talk
about its marginalisation by the film world. The exodus from the
theatre to films is not a new phenomenon. But of late, television,
video, film and the satellite channels have attracted the maximum
number of people from the theatre to these options because of more
money, glamour and market opportunities. As a result, theatre
activities have suffered a severe setback in the last 15 years or
so. The situation, however, has started changing slowly again. The
audience appears to be fed up with the small screen. Theatre being
a live and direct medium and always operating on human level with
its audience can never die. Even after innumerable obstacles and
upheavals in history, it has always emerged as a winner in the
one pertinent question relates to the identity of Indian theatre
today. India being a vast country with 22 languages and as many
different cultures, the theatre cannot be identified with one
uniform element. In India, the concept of National Theatre has to
be seen purely in regional terms. In the post-Independence period
conscious efforts were made to evolve the concept of a 'National
Theatre' by breaking these barriers of language and region. Slowly
many writers crossed these barriers of regionalism and produced
many good works at national level. Badal Sarkar, Girish Karnad,
Vijay Tendulkar, Mohan Rakesh, Adya Rangachari and Dharamveer
Bharati are the few among them.
it is not uncommon to find leading companies and organisations
supporting efforts like holding a theatre festival or carnival of
plays. The Prithvi Theatre has so far run twelve such festivals
called the Prithvi festivals.
It was also able to organise the "Bol
Jamoore" - the national festival of Street
Theatre - with the help of organisations like Child Relief and
You (CRY). These festivals are set to move from Mumbai to other
parts of the country like Bangalore, Delhi, Calcutta and Chennai. Nandikar,
Rudra Sengupta's well-known Calcutta group, has also been putting
up festivals of Indian plays for the last 12 years.
the theatre continues to show its survival instincts in the
contemporary times, as it has been doing so since the time