Modern Theatre in India

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Before the establishment of British rule in India, theatre primarily functioned as a source of entertainment for the elite, often referred to as “Manoranjan.” However, as the British Empire solidified its grip across regions like Bengal, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu in the late 18th century, Indian theatre began to undergo significant transformations. This period marked the genesis of Modern Theatre in India, influenced heavily by the shifting political landscape.

In major urban centres such as Bombay (now Mumbai), Calcutta (now Kolkata), and Madras (now Chennai), the British introduced their style of theatre, modelled after London’s theatrical scene. Initially, this new form of theatre catered to the entertainment needs of British soldiers and civilians. However, it quickly evolved, adopting themes that resonated with the broader Indian populace. Over two centuries of British dominion facilitated a profound interaction between Indian and Western theatrical traditions.

Initially, the narratives of dramatic works were composed only in Bengali, Tamil or Marathi, but later, plays began to be written in other languages like Kannada, Gujarati, Hindi, Oriya, Urdu and English.

 

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