9 Rise of Bhasha: Great Traditions and Little Traditions; Western Impact and Indian Response; Cultural Politics and Hybridity

Mr. Benil Biswas

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India is known for its living folk tradition. There can be no qualm about the fact that any art form always reflects the essences of the society, its fortitude to endure, its spirit, emotions, fellow-feelings, and so on. In India, religion, myth and philosophy can never be separated from their art forms. Dance and music are tied inseparably to ritual, ceremony of any kind. Marriages, births, entering a new house or town, religious processions, harvest time, welcome guests (Atithi Devobhaba) any or all of these are events for melody, music and dance, which extemporaneously conveying the entire vestment of human emotions and experiences. Throughout India, there are tribal areas, where each tribe has its own unique music and dances, nevertheless, there are similar patterns that they all share – for instance men and women creating distinct rows with linked arms and performing intricate leg movements in a progressively increasing rhythm that builds up to a crescendo of dynamism, vigour and heartiness.


In community living, the art of singing, music and dance has its own importance. In all the Bhasha performance-practices, songs and the art of singing have a substantial role to play. As mentioned earlier, the folk traditions of India has a rich oeuvre of songs, dances and other forms of performances. Each of these genres would need a module dedicated to them. In this module our focus will be on the Indian Bhasa or Vernacular drama/theatre Rang traditions in its rural and urban manifestations. In most of Indian Bhasha, theatre is called ‘Rang’/ Natya. Drama is Rang-Sahitya and Theatre is Rang-karma.


Bhasha or the Vernacular Theatre tradition of India


Theatre or Rang-karma as an old form of Communication is a deep-rooted tradition in India’s vibrant culture. As mentioned earlier the folk Bhasha rang is a amalgamated art in India with a synthesis of components from music, epic and ballad recital, versification, dance, pantomime, graphic and plastic arts, faith and festival of the common people. Bhasha theatre has been used extensively in India to propagate critical social, political and cultural issues in the form of theatrical messages to create awareness among the people. As an indigenous form it breaks all kinds of formal barriers of human communication and appeals directly to the people. One could further acknowledge that Folk theatre having roots embedded in local Bhasha, identity and social values besides providing mass entertainment helped Indian society as indigenous tools of interpersonal, inter-group and inter-village communication for ages. However, there is an impression that many of these performance genres are dying out because of the popularity of Bollywood movies, but on the contrary, famous cinema from Bollywood has successfully portrayed and has drawn inspiration from the folk traditions of India. In fact, every movie would have either one or two songs or dances specific to folk tradition of that specific region to provide you with a flavour of the local Bhasha.

Emergence of great Bhasha traditions


A rich cultural heritage of almost 3000 years has been the nurturing ground for Theatre and its Folk forms. Emerging after Greek and Roman theatre, Sanskrit theatre closely associated with primordial rituals, is the earliest form of Indian Theatre. Ascribed to Bharat Muni, ‘Natya Shastra’ is considered to be the initial and most elaborate treatise on dramaturgy and art of theatre in the world. It gives the detailed account of Indian theatre’s divine origin and expounds Rasa. This text becomes the basis of the classical Sanskrit theatre in India. Even the Sanskrit Theatre must have begun as a narrative form, with recitation, singing and dancing becoming its integral elements. This emphasis on narrative elements made our theatre essentially theatrical right from the beginning. That is why the theatre in India has encompassed all the other forms of literature and fine arts into its physical presentation: literature, mime, music, dance, movement, painting, sculpture and architecture – all amalgamated into one.


Bhasha Roots in Classical/Sanskrit Drama


When we delve into the finding process of India’s Bhasha theatre’s origin it shows that this theatrical tradition is inextricable part of our human civilization. It encompasses the practise of music, dance, drama and religious rituals to express human feelings and emotional state. Based on oral tradition in Vedic and Buddhist cultures, Natya/Rang was used to disseminate the tales of human lives in real context. Appearance of Folk Theatre is linked with the alteration of political system, transfer of power and different kind of patronage in India as well as the coming into existence of different regional (bhashas) languages in all parts of the country. Sanskrit Theatre was nourished by pre-eminent play-wrights like Bhasa, Kalidasa, Shudraka, Vishakadatta, Bhavabhuti and Harsha. This body of works which were sophisticated in its form and thematic content can be equalled in its range and influence with the dramatic yield of other prosperous theatre traditions of the world like ancient Greek theatre and Elizabethan theatre. However, it was also largely urban-oriented, limited only to specific elite Class and Caste. On the contrary, the vernacular/Bhasha folk theatre evolved out of rural roots and was more simple, immediate and closer to the rural milieu, with a greater reach and acceptability.


Decline of Sanskrit Drama


The decadence of Sanskrit drama was due by the 10th century A.D. Sanskrit language had ceased to be the language of the people. Over different regions it had developed into different well-established dialects known as apabhramsas. Each apabhramsa dialect was soon to assume a form – to be known by the 15th century in its trial form – as one of the modern Indo-Aryan languages, slowly evolving into the Bhashas. These bhashas or languages of the people were still far from creating their own literature though, in some first literature made its appearance by the 12th century A.D. In contrast, the South Indian languages, not derived from but only influenced by Sanskrit, had a literature of their own by 9th century A.D.


The medieval period experienced the appearance of regional language literatures, which did not produce dramatic works comparable to ancient classics. Nevertheless, folk and ritualistic theatres flourished throughout this period.The performance traditions blossomed and thrived through the folk dancers, musicians, singers and storytellers, just as the basic aesthetics of Natyashastra subsisted, transmuted into innumerable variants, through the traditional folk and classical forms. Some innovations happened in religious drama, thanks to socio-religious reform Bhakti Movements, which engulfed the entire subcontinent during the medieval era.


Various Forms as precursor to the modern Indian Bhasha Drama


While most of these theatrical forms have their own distinctive styles based on their local customs, differing from one another in terms of execution, stagecraft, costume, make-up and acting, even though there are certain basic parallels. The south Indian performances emphasize on dance forms like Kathakali and Krishnattam of Kerala, in fact can be suitable to be termed as dance dramas, while the north Indian forms like the Maach of Madhya Pradesh, the Nautanki of Uttar Pradesh, the Khyal of Rajasthan and the Swang of Punjab emphasize more on songs. The Tamasha of Maharashtra, the Jatra of Bengal, and the Bhavai of Gujarat stress on dialogues in their performance, the latter two focus on comedy and satire. Puppet theatre also flourished at many places in India for example – Shadow puppets (Gombeyatta of Karnataka, Ravana Chhaya of Orissa), Glove puppets (Gopalila of Odisha, Pavai Koothu of Tamil Nadu), Doll puppets (Putul Naach of Bengal and Bommalattum of Tamil Nadu and the Mysore State, Karnataka) and String puppets (Sakhi Kundhei of Orissaand Kathputli of Rajasthan) are some of the popular forms. Histrionics can also be found in certain solo forms of Indian classical dance traditions, like Bharat Natyam, Katthak, Odissi and Mohiniattam. Folk dances like the Gambhira and Purulia Chhau of Bengal, Seraikella Chhau of Jharkhand and Mayurbhanj Chhau of Orissa also have a theatrical narrative element in them. Dramatic content is even intertwined into the ritual ceremonies in some regions, particularly those of Kerala, with its Mudiyettu and Teyyam.


Characteristics of the Bhasha Theatrical Performances


Bhasha theatre or Natya Rang incorporated not only the common masses’ interests but there is also a classical component in them. This classical aspect, nevertheless, takes on regional, local and folk linguistic flavour. It is a probability that those associated with the classical Sanskrit drama/theatre, went to the neighbouring provinces after its deterioration and intermingled with the indigenous performance forms. This kind of synthesis, give-and-take must have taken place at numerous planes such as written, verbal, classical, contemporary, national and local. Historically speaking, it was during the 15th -16th century, under the tutelage of Bhakti and Sufi traditions that the folk theatre emerged forcefully in different regions. It used diverse dialects, languages and idioms of the regions where it emerged. In the beginning these dealt purely in devotional theme and characteristically located around the corpus of religion, local legends and mythology. Later, with changing times, gradually it became secular in content and began to focus on folk stories of desire, romance and chivalry and also biographical accounts of local heroes.


Towards a Naya (New) Theatre:


During British colonial interregnum in 18th and 19th centuries, Indian theatre was reborn in form of dramatic literature. The stimulus ushered in from two sources: the rich legacy of classical Indian drama and the exposure to classics of Western dramatic tradition through English colonial theatres in cities like Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. Translations started to appear simultaneously of Sanskrit masterpieces and classics of Western canon, particularly Shakespeare and other English language playwrights. Till now dramatic literature had not developed as a major literary genre in Indian languages or Bhashas. Describing the situation Rakesh H Solomon writes, “During this period, while the Europeans were discovering ancient Indian culture, Indian elites were discovering modern European culture. Out of this encounter arose the new theatrical genre called the modern Indian theatre. Shaped by the imperatives of empire, nationalism, and nativism, this was a metropolitan genre, created by a bilingual high-caste bourgeoisie, who strategically adapted elements from a gallery of models that included the Sanskrit theatre, traditional theatre, and European theatre.”Consequently, Drama now began to flourish as a prised literary genre alongside the modern genre of fiction, also as a response to Western influence. The city based Parsi and Bengali (Bangla) Theatre were perhaps the precursor to the Bhasha movement into drama and theatre, followed by Marathi, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Telugu, Bhojpuri traditions.


Western Impact and Indian Response: Cultural Politics and hybridity


The rise of urban entertainment theatre was parallel development in theatre, which arose to offer entertainment to the growing population of big cities. For instance, it was early 19th century, in industrialized Mumbai, a new urban theatre emerged, popularly known as Parsi theatre. The Parsi Zoroastrian: a commercial community developed the theatre as a commercial venture. The creation of production houses like Sangli facilitated the repeat of shows, regular maintenance of a group of actors like a repertory and to travel across the region to stage plays- particularly to cities like Poona (Pune) and Bombay (Mumbai). Vishnudas Bhave leased a play-house (auditorium) in Bombay. His first Hindi play, Raja Gopichand recorded revenue of Rs. 1800 in one night. The potential of decent revenues exhilarated the commercial endeavour and soon inspired many other such ventures.


These modem Indian dramatic formations and ventures in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras – had their genesis in developments dating back to the earliest phase of the Indian-British encounter during the second half of the eighteenth century. Rakesh H. Solomon concurs, “Because of this birth and nurture at the colonial intersections of British and Indian cultures, the modern Indian theatre embodied collisions as well as strategic collusions between different cultural traditions. Given the realities of the colonial project and of the patriotic resistance to it, the modern Indian theatre also became a potent site of contestation between imperialist and nationalist ideas, ideologies, and agendas. Parallel features survive in a postcolonial Indian theatre whose defining characteristics include a widespread interest in intercultural experimentation and political engagement.”


Parsi Theatre


This genre was an interesting mixture of Western Naturalistic drama, opera and several local elements. Spectacle based on huge settings and colourful backdrops was an essential part of it. The stage was normally divided into front and back for the staging of main and subsidiary action. Music was its life-breath. The actors of this theatre were also great singers. The acting became naturalistic and melodramatic in contrast to the stylized techniques of traditional Indian theatre. Parsi theatre productions chose their story-lines from diverse sources: popular mythological, folklore and contemporary life. Within ten years there were almost a dozen groups in Maharashtra. They were yet to become theatrical companies. With the construction of play-houses and with assured audiences in cities, the situation changed. The performances came to be organised on a regular basis. Parsi companies came into existence by 1850s. They visited South India also. Karnataka experienced the first professional group in 1877 at a place called Gadag. HS Shiva Prakash mentions, “There were also adaptations of Western classics like Shakespeare and Lessing. Unlike traditional folk and tribal theatre Parsi theatre was acted out in interior spaces, now called proscenium theatre.” He further adds “Geared to amuse urban middle and working classes this theatre produces a pot pouri ofmelodrama, humour, romance and social criticism.”


Expansion into Bhashas


Having established in newly emerging big cities like Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai from late 19th century, this form of commercial theatre performed by professional groups, sometimes travelling, was the only source of mass entertainment before the emergence of cinema. With their emphasis on music, spectacle and melodrama, their productions became the paradigms for Indian cinema. Except in some states like Maharashtra and Assam, entertainment theatre was gradually supplanted by popular cinema by 1970’s.


Though popular entertainment oriented theatre exhilarated masses, it stimulated criticism from sensitive sections of modern Indian population, particularly from educated people. This paved the way for literary drama and amateur theatre. Literary drama was the output of great Indian language writers in different parts of India. The greatest poets in different languages produced a rich harvest of drama: Samsa and Kuvempu in Kannada, Subrahmanya Bharathiar in Tamil, Sreekanthan Nair in Malayalam, Bharatendu Harishchandra, Jaishankar Prasad in Hindi and of course, Rabindranath Tagore in Bangla.


A parallel development was theatre of social criticism which coalesced into urban amateur theatre. This was the drama of ideas influenced mainly by Ibsen and Bernard Shaw addressing social evils.


HS Shiva Prakash distinguishes, “We can further discern two streams of this genre: critical realism and socialist realism. An archetypal work of socialist realism is the Telugu classic Kanyashulkam by Vireshalingam Pantulu. This play is an attack on dowry-system that part of Indian marriage. It became immensely influential because of its reformatory appeal.” Kannada playwright Adya Rangacharya (Sriranga) is another significant author, playwright who wrote plays on social evils like caste system, exploitation of women, religious hypocrisy. The elements of social criticism were also present in entertainment and literary theatre though mixed with several other elements.


While mapping the emergence of Bhasa drama and Theatre, two regions or traditions worth mentioning are Bengal and Maharashtra. Shanta Gokhale recognizes that Bombay and Calcutta are “the two leading cities in India with a professional theatre [and] the histories of the two theatres are marked by as much concurrence as divergence.” In both these regions, the spirit of revolt against East India Company was more active and their theatres reflected the popular sentiments. With Calcutta and Mumbai being industrialized cities and centres of power, their access to British colonial theatre and professional Parsi Theatre led to the quick emergence of Bhasha drama and theatre. Marathi and Bengali theatre scenario was most active during the India’s Freedom struggle. During that period Bal Gangadhar Tilak endorsed the theatre both in Maharashtra and Bengal as venue of human congregation and propagation of nationalist ideas. A swift gloss over their evolution in context of western influence and Indian response will be an interesting experience. In the process, these two traditions became trailblazers for other traditions as a remarkable endeavour to blend tradition and modernity. One should recognize that it was these cities that exchange of ideas happened which facilitated the rise of bhasha dramatic and theatrical tradition. Historian and theatre scholar, Aparna Dharwadkar subscribes to a similar reading, “during the colonial period the Bombay-based Parsi theatre companies created the first popular theatre that commanded a national audience and involved three major languages (Hindi/Hindustani, Gujarati, and Urdu), and since independence Bombay has sustained theatre not only in Marathi but in Hindi, Gujarati, Konkani, and English. Similarly, theatre in Bengali continues to be dominant in Calcutta, but the city is also an important venue now for practitioners in Hindi and English.” Thus, emergence of a specific Bhasha based drama was not always contingent to a specific geographical region. These interesting exchanges should be always kept in mind while exploring the “regional” bhasha ideas and literatures in a polyglot nation like India.


Evolution of Marathi Theatre


It is widely considered that the first Marathi stage performance was the play Sita Swayamvar, based on Ramayana, done by Vishnudas Bhave in 1843. But it was more of an experimental kind of theatre derived from the folk forms and the already existing Shakespearean and Parsi dramas. Therefore, Although Sita Swayamvar, is considered the oldest Marathi play, Makarand Sathe mentions Truteeya Ratna by Jyotiba Phule as one of the first proper Marathi bhasha play. Written in 1855, that play is considered the first consciously political play in India, while noted Marathi playwright Datta Bhagat also calls it the first Dalit play. After that it took almost three decades for Marathi theatre to create its foundations. But the tradition of Marathi theatre in the true sense of the term which incorpates music in it, is said to have started with the musical Shakuntal staged by Annasaheb Kirloskar in 1880. Playwrights and directors used the old Sanskrit and English dramas as a reference and started writing and designing their plays and performances. The play Thorle Madhavrao Peshwe written by Vinayak Janardan Kirtane in 1961 can be said to be the first original historical play written in Marathi that was not an adaptation or one based on myth. He also wrote many plays on 1857 themes.


Heavily influenced by Moliere, Shripad Krishna Kolhatkar initiated a new era in Marathi drama and Sangeet Natak. The Marathi theatre suffered a decline after 1925 perhaps due to the emergent impact of cinema and radio. Nevertheless, it was due to the cinema and radio that Indian theatre developed awareness about the advancement on the western theatre scene. Inspired by new sensibilities in world theatre, Anant Kanekar, G. Y. Chitnis, K. N. Kale and S. V. Vartak started a theatre group called Natyamanvantar. In 1933, Vartak’s Andhalyaanchi Shaalaa (Blind School) was performed for the first time with a female actor, Jyotsna Bhole on Marathi stage. It is considered remarkable for its innovation in terms of naturalistic sets, acting, background music and lighting.


In post-Independence India, the 1950’s and 1960’s saw Marathi drama open new avenues for itself with the likes of Vijay Tendulkar, Vasant Kanetkar, Jaywant Dalvi, S. N. Pendse, Vidyadhar Gokhale, Ratnakar Matkari and P. L. Deshpande starting off as playwrights. Revolutionary plays like Khanolkar’s Ek Shunya Bajirao (1966) and Tendulkar’s Shantata! Court Chalu Aahe (1967) and Ghasiram Kotwal (1972) changed the course of the Marathi and Indian theatre tradition. The discourse on Dalit theatrical expression was brought onto Maratha stage by playwrights like Datta Bhagat, Texas Gaekwad, and Premanand Gajvis.


Evolution of Bengali Theatre


Around the 1795, in Bengal, Lebedeff’s theatre had created a desire in the new audience for suitable plays. Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Merchant of Venice were translated in Bengali. English reproductions incited longings for the finest in our own ancient tradition. In 1854, Kulin-Kul-Sarbasva, written by Ram Narayan Tarkaratna, was perhaps the first play, which expressed the ideas of social reform dealing with the problem of polygamy. The Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 inspired the Indian Theatre. Responding to the growing unrest against the oppressive colonial rule, Dinabandhu Mitra wrote Nil-Darpan, dealing with the crushing oppression of the indigo plantation workers by the European masters. Som Benegal exclaims, “It created a sensation for its dramatic style, its contemporary realism and its social protest.” Another lofty figure who strode the stage literally and metaphorically was Girish Chandra Ghosh, an actor and producer whose Great National Theatre staged a number of plays with patriotic themes. Binodini Dasi was the virtuosos actor trained under the tutelage of Ghosh. Three other writers who contributed immensely to the popularity of theatre in Bengal were Amritlal Basu, Dwijendralal Ray and Kshirodprasad Vidyavinod.


However, a different genre of drama was created by Rabindranath Tagore, who disillusioned with contemporary popular drama. Tagore wrote drama and created theatre with no precedents in East or West, nonetheless integrating essence from both. Some of his plays like Chitrangada, a musical play and Post-office, became globally acclaimed and performed in Europe and North America. While pondering on Tagore, HS Shiva Prakash mentions, “His plays, which are the classics of world drama, were orchestrations of rich poetry, symbolism, socio-political criticism and cosmic vision. They were also prophetic in his understanding of experience as they critique excesses of technological development as in plays like Muktadhara and Roktokorobi.”


Perhaps the first tenets of realism on Bengali stage were introduced in the 1920’s by Sisir Kumar Bhaduri, Naresh Mitra, Ahindra Chaudhri and Durga Das Banerjee. Probha Devi and Kanakvati were two able actresses. Legendary actor, Sisir Kumar Bhaduri took the art of acting to new heights. He has to be credited for ushering in the transition from formal rhetorical acting of folk genres to modern realistic acting on the Indian stage, charting out the gradual change colloquial usage of the Bangla Bhasha. Thus, new acting styles definitely influenced the creation of type of Bhasha dramatic texts.


In post-independence era, Kolkata witnessed the emergence of three important theatre stalwarts: Utpal Dutt, Sombhu Mitra and Ajitesh Bandopadhyay. Dutt made substantial contributions to political theatre. A playwright, director, actor and producer, did several unforgettable productions like Tiner Talwar (Tin Sword) and Surya Shikar (Hunting the Sun). Another significant contribution was the modification of the popular folk theatre, Jatra and making it a means to convey contemporary political messages. On the other hand, Shambhu Mitra, concentrated on refinement the aesthetic form of Theatre. His production of Tagore’s Rakta Korobi was a widely acclaimed work. Further, Ajitesh Bandopadhyay brought about a remarkable new idiom in Bengali Bhasha usage and acting. He went on to create the widely acclaimed Nandikar theatre group.


In the 1960’s, the group theatre movement started in Kolkata, which contributed to provide fresh strength into the Bhasha theatre and sustained a continuous audience base in Bengal largely around city of Kolkata and its suburbs. However, it is the district centres like Gobardanga, Purulia, Siliguri and Jalpaiguri among many others, where the innovation in Bhasha theatre is taking shape in recent times.




An important episode of Indian Bhasha Drama/Theatre will be missed if IPTA is not mentioned. Socialist realism in Indian Bhasha drama was associated with IPTA (Indian People’s Theatre Association) experiments. IPTA was a group of artists subscribing to Progressive ideology. Though its expressions were varied from region to region they were all committed to the vision of theatre as a means for social change. This movement was strongest  in regions like Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Maharashtra, Bengal, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.


Nabanna is a Bengali drama written by Bijon Bhattacharya and staged by the IPTA in 1944 under the direction of Sombhu Mitra. The play is about the Bengal famine of 1943. The Bengal IPTA took the play to many parts of India as a part of its festival, Voice of Bengal, and it became a major success and collected lakhs of rupees for famine relief in rural Bengal.


The IPTA performances in the Hindi speaking belt of North Indian were mostly influenced by socialist realist works of Howard Fast and Maxim Gorky. Bhisham Sahani and Habib Tanvir were examples of such a tradition. In the South, attempts were made to integrate social message with traditional forms. The most renowned of such plays is a Malayalam work, Ningal Endai Communist Akki (You Made Me a Communist) by Toppil Bhasi. The legendary presentations of this play, performed by Kerala People’s Arts Club (KPAC) is said to have cemented the way for the first ever elected Communist government in Kerala. Influenced by the movement, many amateur theatres came into being in various regions of India, championing the cause for social change also came into being in different regions. Though not popular like entertainment theatre, it kept alive the role of drama as a criticism of life. One such theatre was Prithvi Theatre founded by the movie star Prithviraj Kapoor in 1944. On the similar lines, Habib Tanvir created Naya Theatre, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. He wrote and produced and performed plays like Agra Bazar (1954) and Charandas Chor (1975) among many others. 1970’s onwards, inspired by the ideology, arts and aesthetics of IPTA, Jana Natya Manch, Delhi started by Safdar Hashmi, Third Theatre, Kolkata stated by Badal Sircar and Samudaya Theatre movement in Karnataka.


Post-Independence scenario and creation of Akademi


The Bhasha theatre received a major boost in the post-independence era by the establishment of several national academies under Ministry of Culture, Government of India, which led to the preservation, promotion and nourishing growth of the arts. Sangeet Natak Akademi (National Music and Performing Arts Akademi) was set up to promote performing arts including theatre. This institution has been conferring awards annually on talented artists who  have enriched different aspects of theatre from playwriting to direction, acting etc. It also organizes from time to time seminars, workshops and festivals to encourage theatre. Many leading directors, actors and playwrights have been the recipients of the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA) award. During this phaseinternationally acclaimed play-wrights like Vijay Tendulkar, Badal Sircar, Dharmaveer Bharati, Mohan Rakesh and Girish Karnad, Chandrashekhar Kambar, P Lankesh and Indira Parthasarati, created their works, which have been extensively performed and deliberated upon. These play-wrights brought a new zeal of life to Bhasha theatre, with a thematic uneasiness of the modernist angst.


Particularly in 80’s SNA played the key-role in shaping the Indian theatre through a popular scheme of financial assistance to those theatre directors who revive traditional forms, both folk and classical, on modern stage. Benefitted from these schemes, many directors created and performed unique oeuvre of dramas for example at Trivandrum, Kerala, KN Panicker established Sopanam group, creating and performing plays in Malayalam and Sanskrit; Veenapani Chawla found Adishakti, at Pondicherry, created and performed plays in Tamil, Sanskrit and English, Heisnam Kanhailal created Kalaskshetra and Ratan Thiyam created Chorus Repertory at Imphal, Manipur, creating an fascinating niche for performance in Manipuri language. Theatre of the Roots movement is also a result of such a scheme.


Another important development in post-Independence theatre was the emergence of drama school theatre following the establishment of National School of Drama, an autonomous institution funded by state, in Delhi. Under guidance of visionaries like Ibrahim Alkazi trained at RADA, UK and BV Karanth, trained in Yakshagana traditions of Karnataka, created an elaborate curricula ranging from the western theatrical traditions to Indianized theatre practices. In effect, the dialectics between Western influence and Indian response has characterized the work of several generations of theatre artists trained in NS, bringing about a unique cultural hybridity that marks the contours of Indian Bhasha theatre. Regular performances of plays mostly in Hindi in various parts of the country by NSD repertory company has also contributed immensely in disseminating the emergent hybrid aesthetics. Bharat Rang Mahotsav, the annual international theatre festival, organised by NSD showcases a whole gamut of productions from all over India and the rest of the world, informing- educating the playwrights, actors, theatre workers alike about the developments leading to newer experiments.


Alongside NSD, other drama schools and repertories have emerged from all over the country namely- Ranga Mandal, Bhopal; Bharatendu Harischandra Drama School in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh; Rangayana, Mysore, Karnataka. Ninasam, a Drama school and repertory, established in Heggodu in Karnataka by KV Subbanna, has become the hub of theatre and culture drawing theatre and culture workers from all over the state and elsewhere. However, none of the institutions in India yet offers a playwriting program which might provide an academic and historical orientation to new budding playwrights, who would want to explore innovative avenues in Bhasha dramatic writing. Many other individual efforts also have extended the cause. Organizations like theIndia Foundation for the Arts (IFA), Bengaluru, Karnataka, founded in 1993, supports practice, research and education in the arts in India. Bhasha Trust, Vadodara, Gujarat, founded in 1996 for study; documentation and conservation of marginal languages and culture have sustained theatre like Budhan theatre. Recently, Pyara Kerketta Foundation (PKF), Ranchi, Jharkhand held a conference titled Dalit Adivasi Theatre Akhra to facilitate debates on Dalit Adivasi theatre in India and address the dilemmas, frustrations, anxieties, and new directions of Dalit and Adivasi theatre in India and India Theatre Forum (ITF) was also created in 2008 to have similar dialogues about theatre.




Recently a seven day RASHTRIYA SANSKRITI MAHOTSAV was organised with an objective of connecting the younger generations with the sheer diversity of Indian culture and presenting a unique opportunity to witness folk, traditional, tribal and classical art forms of India at one destination. The festival also involved schools, colleges and the younger generation from all walks of life thus creating a connection across audiences by entertaining and educating them at the same time. We should recognize it is these folk Bhasha traditions that bind us together as one people and hope in future, many more such attempts will lead us to connect further with our rich diverse traditional bhasha cultures, in order to comprehend how our diversity is our strength. New generation of playwrights in different provinces of the country are now addressing problems like identity crisis, effects of globalization, economic liberalizations. Contemporary directors, heirs of a magnificent Bhasha tradition, are re-creating the idiom of theatre by drawing on resources of old tradition and folk resources. Performed in 24 major languages and in many tribal languages and in English, Indian drama and theatre today has been still contributing significantly in social integrity promotion of cultural diversity and nation building.

you can view video on Rise of Bhasha: Great Traditions and Little Traditions



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