Theatre of India
Indian theatre is one of the most ancient forms of Asian theatre and it features a detailed textual, sculptural, and dramatic effects. Like in the areas of music and dance, the Indian theatre is also defined by the dramatic performance defined by the concept of Natya, which is a Sanskrit word for drama but encompasses dramatic narrative, virtuostic dance, and music. Indian theatre exerted influence beyond its borders, reaching ancient China and other countries in the Far East.
The earliest form of classical theatre of India was the Sanskrit theatre which came into existence after the development of Greek and Roman theatres in the west. One theory describes this development as an offshoot of Alexander the Great's Indian conquest. The invading army staged Greek-style plays and Indians picked up the performance art. While some scholars argue that traditional Indian theatre predated it, there is a recognition that classical Greek theatre has helped transformed it.
With the Islamic conquests that began in the 10th and 11th centuries, theatre was discouraged or forbidden entirely. Later, in an attempt to re-assert indigenous values and ideas, village theatre was encouraged across the subcontinent, developing in a large number of regional languages from the 15th to the 19th centuries. Modern Indian theatre developed during the period of colonial rule under the British Empire, from the mid-19th century until the mid-20th.
From the last half of the 19th century, theatres in India experienced a boost in numbers and practice. After Indian independence in 1947, theatres spread throughout India as one of the means of entertainment. As a diverse, multi-cultural nation, the theatre of India cannot be reduced to a single, homogenous trend.
In contemporary India, the major competition with its theatre is that represented by growing television industry and the spread of films produced in the Indian film industry based in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), known as "Bollywood". Lack of finance is another major obstacle.
Sanskrit theatre emerged in the 2nd century BCE and flourished between the 1st century CE and the 10th, which was a period of relative peace in the history of India during which hundreds of plays were written. Despite its name, Sanskrit theatre was not exclusively in Sanskrit language. Other Indic languages collectively called as Prakrit were also used in addition to Sanskrit.
The earliest-surviving fragments of Sanskrit drama date from the 1st century CE. The wealth of archeological evidence from earlier periods offers no indication of the existence of a tradition of theatre. The Vedas (the earliest Indian literature, from between 1500 and 600 BCE) contain no hint of it; although a small number of hymns are composed in a form of dialogue), the rituals of the Vedic period do not appear to have developed into theatre. The Mahābhāṣya by Patañjali contains the earliest reference to what may have been the seeds of Sanskrit drama. This treatise on grammar from 140 BCE provides a feasible date for the beginnings of theatre in India.
However, although there are no surviving fragments of any drama prior to this date, it is possible that early Buddhist literature provides the earliest evidence for the existence of Indian theater. The Pali suttas (ranging in date from the 5th to 3rd centuries BCE) refer to the existence of troupes of actors (led by a chief actor), who performed dramas on a stage. It is indicated that these dramas incorporated dance, but were listed as a distinct form of performance, alongside dancing, singing, and story recitations.[note 1]
The major source of evidence for Sanskrit theatre is A Treatise on Theatre (Nātyaśāstra), a compendium whose date of composition is uncertain (estimates range from 200 BCE to 200 CE) and whose authorship is attributed to Bharata Muni. The Treatise is the most complete work of dramaturgy in the ancient world. It addresses acting, dance, music, dramatic construction, architecture, costuming, make-up, props, the organisation of companies, the audience, competitions, and offers a mythological account of the origin of theatre. In doing so, it provides indications about the nature of actual theatrical practices. Sanskrit theatre was performed on sacred ground by priests who had been trained in the necessary skills (dance, music, and recitation) in a [hereditary process]. Its aim was both to educate and to entertain. Characters in Sanskrit plays were important. They were broadly classified into three kinds which are Nayaka(hero), Nayika(heroine) and the Vidusaka(Clown).
An appreciation for the stagecraft and classic Sanskrit drama was seen as an essential part of a sophisticated world view, by the end of the seventh century. Under the patronage of royal courts, performers belonged to professional companies that were directed by a stage manager (sutradhara), who may also have acted. This task was thought of as being analogous to that of a puppeteer—the literal meaning of "sutradhara" is "holder of the strings or threads". The performers were trained rigorously in vocal and physical technique. There were no prohibitions against female performers; companies were all-male, all-female, and of mixed gender. Certain sentiments were considered inappropriate for men to enact, however, and were thought better suited to women. Some performers played characters their own age, while others played ages different from their own (whether younger or older). Of all the elements of theatre, the Treatise gives most attention to acting (abhinaya), which consists of two styles: realistic (lokadharmi) and conventional (natyadharmi), though the major focus is on the latter.
Its drama is regarded as the highest achievement of Sanskrit literature. It used stock characters, such as the hero (nayaka), heroine (nayika), or clown (vidusaka). Actors may have specialised in a particular type. Kālidāsa is arguably considered to be India's greatest Sanskrit dramatist, writing in the ca. 4th century CE-ca. 5th century CE. Three famous romantic plays written by Kālidāsa are the Mālavikāgnimitram (Mālavikā and Agnimitra), Vikramuurvashiiya (Pertaining to Vikrama and Urvashi), and Abhijñānaśākuntala (The Recognition of Shakuntala). The last was inspired by a story in the Mahabharata and is the most famous. It was the first to be translated into English and German. Śakuntalā (in English translation) influenced Goethe's Faust (1808–1832).
The next great Indian dramatist was Bhavabhuti (c. 7th century CE). He is said to have written the following three plays: Malati-Madhava, Mahaviracharita and Uttar Ramacharita. Among these three, the last two cover between them the entire epic of Ramayana. The powerful Indian emperor Harsha (606–648) is credited with having written three plays: the comedy Ratnavali, Priyadarsika, and the Buddhist drama Nagananda.
India's artistic identity is deeply routed within its social, economical, cultural, and religious views. For this reason it is essential to understand Indian cultural practices as they relate directly to performers and performances of this time. Performances including dance, music, and text are an expression of devotion for the Indian culture, so when looking at 'theatre' of this time a broader definition must be ascribed to the word.
Based on the understanding that performing arts are audience-oriented and must continuously adapt to the socio-cultural landscape of their patronage. Northern India managed to retain their cultural traditions in spite of the new Turko-Persian influences. The early thirteenth century marked this change for the Indian culture, where Sanskrit dramas and stage craft had been previously revered by the elites, it was now no longer relevant. This was due to the invading cultures that began to dominate and did not appreciate or understand, and since they did not understand the Sanskrit language it could no longer be held in such a high regard, and as a consequence many theatre artist suffered from neglect.
The commonplace to find performers was in urban centers, because it was there they were able to find work to support themselves. Large temples where home to musical and theatrical shows.
A Bharata Natyshatra also known as the śāstra was written to list costumes, gestures, positions of the body, and make up. It also lists plots that were weighed unsuitable and it also the most completed document. Most of Indian theatre had no scenery. There was usually a few props like a brass lamp.
When the concept of "Theatrical Art" was introduced medieval India was narrating poems. Bhakti poetry became popular.
During medieval India Bhavabhuti was a famous dramatist, he had three portent plays Malati-Madhava, Magviracharita and the Uttar Ramacharita.
Under British colonial rule, modern Indian theatre began when a theatre was started in Belgachia. One of the earliest plays composed and staged during this period was Buro Shalikher Ghaare Roa (1860) by Michael Madhusudan Dutt, both in Bengali. Around the same time, Nil Darpan (1858–59, first commercial production in 1872, by Girish Chandra Ghosh at the national theatre in Calcutta) a Bengali play by Dinabandhu Mitra garnered both accolades and controversy for depicting the horror and tragedy of indigo cultivation in rural Bengal, and played a major role in the indigo revolt. Rabindranath Tagore was a pioneering modern playwright who wrote plays noted for their exploration and questioning of nationalism, identity, spiritualism and material greed. His plays are written in Bengali and include Chitra (Chitrangada, 1892), The King of the Dark Chamber (Raja, 1910), The Post Office (Dakghar, 1913), and Red Oleander (Raktakarabi, 1924).
Kalyanam Raghuramaiah, a recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, and the Padmashri, was known for the roles of Krishna or Dushyantha, Bhavanisankar, Narada etc. in Telugu theatre. He performed those roles for about 60 years. He indulged in elaborate raga alapana, based on different ragas while rendering padyams. One of the finest method actors, He had the ability to sing padyams and songs through whistle, by putting his finger in mouth and producing the whistle or flute sound (meaning Eela in Telugu). He has acted in various dramas and gave more than 20,000 stage performances. He was called the "Nightingale of the Stage" by Rabindranath Tagore
The British believed that the Indian actors were mystical creatures. They believed they brought them luck and prosperity. The emergent modern Indian theater, which is also referred to as Native theater, features a theatrical approach that has been viewed as an intersection of Indian social space with Western theater formats and conventions. The resulting theatrical space is described to be existing at the material, symbolic, and discursive levels. To resist its use by Indians as an instrument of protest against colonial rule, the British Government imposed the Dramatic Performances Act in 1876.
Mrityunjay Prabhakar is one of the major young Hindi theatre director and playwright who emerged in the last decade of the 20th century and established himself as a significant theatre activist in first decade of the 21st century.
Improvisational (also known as improv or impro) is a form of theatre in which the actors use improvisational acting techniques to perform spontaneously. Improvisers typically use audience suggestions to guide the performance as they create dialogue, setting, and plot extemporaneously.
Many improvisational actors also work as scripted actors and "improv" techniques are often taught in standard acting classes. The basic skills of listening, clarity, confidence, and performing instinctively and spontaneously are considered important skills for actors to develop.
Improvisational Theatre in India is largely used for educational, interventional and entertainment purposes. The traces of Improvisational theatre in India dates back to the 1990s with the advent of Forum theatre with Janasanskriti under the leadership of Sanjoy Ganguly. After that in 1999, a team from the US with Bev Hoskins and Mary Good introduced Playback theatre to India. Thus Playback theatre and Forum theatre began to take its shape in the remotest parts of India, such as Karur, Chennai, West Bengal, as well as Bangalore too. Yours Truly Theatre, a Bangalore-based group, developed "complete the story", an indigenous format of improvisational theatre developed under the leadership of Ranji David and Nandini Rao in 2006. In 2009, they also developed another form of improvisational theatre called "mushyara theatre".
In the late 1960s Badal Sircar introduced a new form of political theatre called the Third Theatre. Badal Sarkar's anti-establishment experimental theatre created a new genre of social enlightenment. He formed his first Third Theatre Group satabdi, in the year 1967. They used to perform Drama written by Badal Sircar in Anganmancha (theatre in the courtyard) in the Third Theatre form that break away from the tradition of One point view of the Proscenium and urged on the taking theatre to the people.
Kutiyattam is the only surviving specimen of the ancient Sanskrit theatre, thought to have originated around the beginning of the Common Era, and is officially recognised by UNESCO as a . In addition, many forms of Indian folk theatre abound. Bhavai (strolling players) is a popular folk theatre form of Gujarat, said to have arisen in the 14th century AD. Bhaona and Ankiya Nats have been practicing in Assam since the early 16th century which were created and initiated by Mahapurusha Srimanta Sankardeva. Jatra has been popular in Bengal and its origin is traced to the Bhakti movement in the 16th century. Another folk theatre form popular in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh is Swang, which is dialogue-oriented rather than movement-oriented and is considered to have arisen in its present form in the late 18th – early 19th centuries. Yakshagana is a very popular theatre art in Karnataka and has existed under different names at least since the 16th century. It is semi-classical in nature and involves music and songs based on carnatic music, rich costumes, storylines based on the Mahabharata and Ramayana. It also employs spoken dialogue in-between its songs that gives it a folk art flavour. Kathakali is a form of dance-drama, characteristic of Kerala, that arose in the 17th century, developing from the temple-art plays Krishnanattam and Ramanattam.
Urdu Drama evolved from the prevailing dramatic traditions of North India shaping Rahas or Raas as practiced by exponents like Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Awadh. His dramatic experiments led to the famous Inder Sabha of Amanat and later this tradition took the shape of Parsi Theatre. Agha Hashr Kashmiri is culmination of this tradition.
In some way or other, Urdu theatre tradition has greatly influenced modern Indian theatre. Among all the languages Urdu (which was called Hindi by early writers), along with Gujrati, Marathi and Bengali theatres have kept flourishing and demand for its writers and artists has not subsided by the drama aficionados. For Urdu drama, no place is better than Bombay Film industry otherwise known as Hindi film industry. All the early gems of Urdu Theatre (performed by Parsi Companies) were made into films. Urdu Dramatic tradition has been a spectator's delight since 100 years and counting.
Drama as a theme is made up of several elements. It focuses on life and different aspects of it. The thing to be noticed here is that drama on stage imitates drama in life. It has been said that, there has always been a mutual relationship between theatre and real life. Great historical personalities like Shakespeare have influenced Modern Urdu tradition to a large extent when Indian, Iranian, Turkish stories and folk was adapted for stage with heavy doses of Urdu Poetry. In modern times writers like Imtiaz Ali Taj, Rafi Peer, Krishan Chander, Manto, Upender Nath Ashk, Ghulam Rabbani, Prof. Mujeeb and many others shaped this tradition.
While Prof Hasan, Ghulam Jeelani, J.N. Kaushal, Shameem Hanfi, Jameel Shaidayi etc. belong to the old generation, contemporary writers like Mujeeb Khan, Javed Siddiqui, Sayeed Alam, Danish Iqbal, Anis Azmi, Aftab Hasnain, Aslam Parvez, Anis Javed, Iqbal Niyazi, Syed Sahil Agha and Zaheer Anwar are few post modern playwrights actively contributing in the field of Urdu Drama.
Zaheer Anwar has kept the flag of Urdu Theatre flying in Kolkata. Unlike the writers of previous generation, Danish iqbal and Zaheer do not write bookish Plays but their work is a product of vigorous performing tradition. Iqbal Niyazi of Mumbai has written several plays in Urdu. His play, "Aur Kitne Jalyanwala BaughU??" won National award other awards. Hence this is the only generation after Amanat and Agha Hashr who actually write for stage and not for libraries.
Yakshagana is a popular semi-classical theatre art from coastal Karnataka. It uses rich costumes, music, dance, and dialogue. Puppet shows in parts of Karnataka uses all these elements of yakshagana to depict stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Mobile theatres are a kind of popular theatre form that exist only in Assam. For staging their plays, theatre groups travel different places with their casts, singers, musicians, dancers and entire crew. Even the tent and chairs for the audience are carried with them. Mobile theatre was first staged on 2 October 1963 in Pathshala, Assam. Achyut Lahkar is known as the father of mobile theatre.
Mobile theatre in Salempur Deoria Eastern Uttar Pradesh is over 500 years played on stage within eight years. sanskritiksangam.com is a leading cultural organisation that has been promoting rich Indian culture through regional artists based in Eastern Uttar Pradesh. Since its establishment in 2005, One of its most popular classical-Musical-Dance Drama creation Sanskritik Sangam Salempur, Meghdoot Ki Puravanchal Yatra in Bhojpuri an adaptation of Kalidasa's Meghdootam has done a record 96 shows in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Rishikesh, Agra, Varanasi, Patna, Sonpur Mela Gorakhpur, near by areas in eastern UP among others. The creations has won many awards and recognitions for its team through leading organisations Its creations revolve around famous mythological and historical personalities and stories like, Ramayana (7 to 9 days play) 26 places, Bhagwata (7 days play) two places, Kabir (23 places), Harishchandra Taramati, (27 Places), Utho Ahilya (26 places) and Sri Krishna (Three places). And also perform popular plays from Hindi literature including Kaptan Sahab (31), Court Marshall (1), Saiyyan Bhaye Kotwal (22), Muvaavaje (2), Bakari (2), Bade Bhai Saheb (63), Kafan(12), Bholaram ka jeev (17), Satgati (2), Boodhi kaaki (3), kakha ga kaa chakkar (7), Jago grahak jaago (3) etc. among other presentations based on famous literary geniuses like Munshi Premchand, Bhikaari Thakur, etc.