Theatre in India

Theatre in India

India was invaded a number of times. This played a major role in shaping of Indian culture and heritage. The Medieval India experienced a grand fusion with the invaders from the middle-east.

India, as a colony of the British Empire, used theatre as one of its instruments in protest. To resist, the British Government had to impose Dramatic Performance Act in 1876. From the last half of the 19th century, theatres in India experienced a boost in numbers and practice.

After independence in 1947, theatres spread throughout India as one of the means of entertainment and one of the means of death.

India, being a multi-cultural nation, cannot be associated with a unique trend and feature in its theatres.

Presently, major threats to Indian Theatre are the spread of television industry and spread of the films produced in the Mumbai film industry. Lack of finance is another major trouble.

History of Indian theatre

Theatre in ancient India

Bharata wrote Natya Shastra (200 BC - 400 AD), a dissertation on the structure and purpose of theatre in society.

Theatre in medieval India

Theatre in India under British rule

Indian theatre after Independence (1947-1992)

Contemporary (post-1992) Indian theatre


Improvization is a very new art form to India. Very few theatre groups and very few public performances have been done.

Notable theatres in India in different Indian languages and regions

* Bengali Theatre

Notable people

Ancient Age

* Bharata
* Kalidasa

Medieval age

Under British rule

* Dinabandhu Mitra
* Michael Madhusudan Dutta
* Rabindranath Tagore

After Independence (1947 onwards)

Notable theatre directors and writers:
* Rambriksh Benipuri, playwright, journalist, short-story writer, nationalist and socialist
* Ebrahim Alkazi, ex. Director NSD
* Habib Tanvir, Director & writer, Naya Theatre, Bhopal
* Bansi Kaul, Theatre director, Bhopal
* Ratan Thiyam, Director Chorus Theatre,Manipur
* Suresh Bhardwaj, Director, Aakar Kala Sangam, Associate Professor at National School of Drama, New Delhi
* Safdar Hashmi, Theatre Activist,Pioneer in street theatre movement in India
* Ramesh Mehta, Playwright, Sangeet Natak Academy Awardee 2006
* Utpal Dutta, Political Theatre Director, Kolkatta
* Girish Karnad - Kannada
* Shankar Nag - Kannada
* K.V. Subbanna - Kannada
* B.V. Karanth - Kannada, Hindi
* K.V. Akshara - Kannada
* Sambhu Mitra, Actor Director, Kolkatta
* Vijay Tendulkar, playwright, Marathi
* Sachin Gupta, Playwright, Theatre Director
* Rudraprasad Sengupta, Theatre Director, Kolkatta
* Badal Sarkar, playwright
* Satyadev Dubey, Theatre director, Mumbai
* Uma Jhunjhunwala, Theatre Director, Calcutta
* Bijon Bhattacharya
* Kumara Varma
* Mohan Maharishi, Ex Director NSD,Indian theatre department,Punjab University.
* Gursharan Singh, street theatre activist, Punjab
* S. M. Azhar Aalam, Theatre Director, Little Thespian, Calcutta

Forms of Indian theatre

Classical Indian dance

The most orthodox and complex form of musical theatre based on the Natya Shastra.

Traditional Indian theatre

See Guru Padma Shri Mani Madhava Chakyar, Mani Damodara Chakyar and Kutiyattam

Indian folk theatre

Modern Indian theatre

Modern Indian Theatre is a high tech affair, most of the Indian artists are trained professionals from international Universities and India too today has many world class theatre training organization. Though the Indian auditoriums have not embraced technology as swiftly, but the same is changing rapidly, One great example of technology put to use in Modern Indian Theatre is a comprehensively created portal [ Bangalore Theatre Guide] , While Indian theatre is emerging on the international theatre arena, Bangalore Theatre is a precursor of things to come.

Indian puppet theatre

Indian street theatre

Other Indian theatres

Notable awards and festivals



* Nandikar's National Theatre Festival


Comprising of 21 reputed Indian plays from 9 centres in 11 languages, presented over 14 days

This festival features traditional and contemporary plays, as well as adaptations of classical plays in several regional languages, English and Sanskrit)

From Kerala we have the privilege of having Sopanam again with the maestro Kevalam Narayana Panikkar coming with a Malayalam play Otta Mulachi and a Sanskrit classic in Kalidas’s Malavikaagnimitram. Aamchi Mumbai and Marathi boast of a duet, being Vijay Mishra’s local Choukatali Vihir, while Saish Deshpande’s Waiting Room comes from Panaji, Goa. This may well have been three if Waman Kendre had not decided to do his own adaptation of Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex in Hindustani this time, tilted Vedhapashya! Other Hindustani plays are Ekjute’s Romeo & Juliet, & Not to forget the remembrable performance of '8 Ghante' by Aakar Kala Sangam directed by Suresh Bhardwaj,Devendra Raj Ankur’s Hum Tumse Pyar Karega Kaun, Dinesh Thakur’s Mitr, Sunil Shanbag’s take on Mumbai mill workers, Cotton 56, Polyester 84, Suresh Sharma’s Kaafka – Ek Adhyay, Sanjay Sahay’s take on Nikolai Gogol’s Inspector-General titled Jaanch Partal coming from Gaya in Bihar and, quite significantly for this festival, Prasanna’s very own interpretation of Mahakavi Bhavbhuti's (also known as Bhavabhuti ) UIttara Ramacharitha.

Suren Thakar Mehul’s Mrutunjay is in Gujarati, Santanu Das’s Manush-Manushi in Bengali, Kewal Dhaliwal’s Loona in Punjabi and Chidambara Rao Jambhe’s Oh Lear in Kannada. Distance never being a problem for this festival, from the most eastern and least accessible part of India comes Baharul Islam’s Assamese offering Apeksha. Did we leave anything out? Yes, the Konkani play coming from Goa, being Kala Academy Goa’s Devchar Khelayata, Mogyank Melayta, an interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Jayendranath Haladankar.

Institutional aids in Indian theatre

Notable groups and companies

* Nandikar
* Little Thespian
* Ninasam
* Rangayana
* Ranga Shankara
* Prithvi Theatre
* Indian People's Theatre Association
* Asmita Theatre Group
* Chilsag Chillies Theatre Company
* Theatre Formation Paribartak
* DramaTech

Notable productions

* Oedipus (1982)
* Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1984)
* Savitri (1989)
* Ganapati (1999)
* Madhavi, solo by Rashi Bunny (2003)
* Yaadon Ke Bujhe Huye Savere, Directed by Uma Jhunjhunwala (2005)
* Oh God (2006)
* Odd Couple (2006)
* ART (2007)
* Five point someone (2007)
* Run For Your Wife (2007)
* Sacrifice (2007) by IFTA
* Question-mark, (2007)produce by Little Thespian

Notable stages

* Academy of Fine Arts, Calcutta (Ranu Mukherjee Mancha)
* Rabindra Sadan

Notable theatre to films

* Sohrab Modi
* Om Shivpuri
* Kulbhushan Kharbanda
* Sudha Shivpuri
* Om Shivpuri
* Anupam Kher
* Raj Babbar
* Ashish Vidyarthi
* Alok Nath
* Neena Gupta
* Rajpal Yadav
* Aishwarya Rai
* Seema Biswas
* Meghna Kothari
* Satish Kaushik
* Suresh Bhardwaj
* Deepa Sahi
* Ratna Pathak Shah
* Pankaj Kapoor
* Kangana Ranawat
* Dia Mirza
* Lara Dutta
* Priyanka Chopra
* Celina Jaitley
* Sushmita Sen
* Bipasha Basu
* Rani Mukherjee
* Kajol
* Amrita Rao
* Esha Deol
* Preity Zinta
* Amisha Patel
* Madhuri Dixit
* Mallika Serawat
* Deepika Padukone
* Katrina Kaif
* Riya Sen
* Juhi Chawla
* Isha Koppikar
* Sneha Ullal
* Bhumika Chawla
* Akshay Kumar
* Shahid Kapoor
* Hritik Roshan
* Paresh Rawal
* Rajpal Yadav
* Abhishek Bachchan
* Sunil Shetty
* Vivek Oberoi
* John Abraham
* Amitabh Bachchan
* Ritesh Deshmukh
* Aftab Shivdasani
* Arjun Rampal
* Ajay Devgan
* Zayed Khan
* Shabana Azmi
* Sandeep Marwah
* Shilpa Shukla
* Shahrukh Khan
* Girish Karnad
* Ananth Nag
* Shankar Nag
* Rajkumar
* G V Iyer
* Piyush Mishra
* Pasupathy

Notable Indian theatre in foreign languages

Notable Indian theatre in other countries

Foreign plays and/or plots in Indian theatre

Problems and issues in Indian theatre


Theatre for poor versus poor theatre

Theatre versus television

Theatre for development in India


* [ in India]

External links

* [ NSD]
* [ AKS]
* [ Koothu p pattarai]
* [ Bangalore Theatre Guide]
* []
* [ Prithvi Theatre]
* [ Sopanam Institute of Performing Arts and Research (Bhashabharathi), Kerala]
* []
* [ Samooh Theatre]
* [ Natarang Pratishthan: Archive and Resource Centre for Indian Theatre]
* [ Abhinaya Theatre Research Centre]

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