(Last Updated on : 04/04/2013)
The tale of changing ritualism and changing tradition can be best understood amidst the magic and charm of Indian theatre. The history of Indian theatre is deeply buried in the long gone era of the Sanskrit plays. The eminent Indian dramatists since then have added a distinct shape to Indian natya whilst exemplifying the nine rasas of drama.
Theatre in India is as old as the Indian culture. India therefore boasts its glorious association with illustrious Indian dramatists since its antiquity. Theatre even in the ancient India was coherent and it was with the introduction of the Sankrit theatre, Indian drama was delineated for the very first time. The earliest phase of Sanskrit theatre includes the writing of the Indian dramatists which was based almost entirely on the rules and modifications laid down in the Natya Shastra. Shudraka, Harsha, Visakhadatta, Bhasa, Kalidasa and Bhavabhuti were the six prominent Indian dramatists of all times who have delineated the structure of Indian theatre through their dramatic pieces in Sanskrit.
The glory of the Sanskrit plays which was once a prominent part of the Indian theater in the ancient age somewhat faded away during the medieval time. Renowned Indian dramatists in the middle ages offered an innovative touch to Indian drama whilst making it lot more vibrant. For the very first time the Indian dramatists of the medieval era uniformly blended dance, mime and musical form to structure a whole new type of Indian drama that has been later classified as the Indian classical dance drama. The great art connoisseur, King Laksmanya Manikya composed two plays namely Vikhyata-vijaya and Kuvalayashva-charita during this period and set the tone for the mythological and classical plays in Indian entertainment scenario. The study of Indian dramatists of the medieval era is again incomplete without the mention of Krishnachandra Roy who was then the tributary king of Nabadweep. His remarkable plays like the Chandi, Mahisasura Vadha and Chitra-yajn still echoes the glory of medieval India.
It is during this era, renowned Indian dramatists like Krisahna Mishra, Kalidasa, Panchanan Tarkaratna and Kalipada Tarkicharya further enriched the Indian theatre. The re,arkable plays like Nala-damayantiya and Syamantakoddhar by Kalipada Tarkacharya, Kirtibilas by Jogendranath Gupta further delineated the entertainment genre in India.
Theatre was then primarily for entertainment. But this scenario witnessed a massive change during the British rule. The Indian dramatists then chose theatre as one of the weapons to illustrate the effects and impacts of the British Raj, whilst making it lot more contemporary. Gone are the moments of theatre for entertainment, eposes, leelas, myths and heroism also faded away. The Indian dramatists then offered that desired boos to the drama form which can ideally be termed as theatre by the people and theatre for the people. However it is right after the independence of India the haphazard form of Indian "natya" was further rationalized. The seed of modishness which was sown during the 200 years of British imperialism was further Indianised to befit the existing political and economic scenario of independent India. The Indian dramatists then were no more satisfied with the mere representation of the British exploitation but tried to make Indian drama more naturalistic to deal with the issues of independent India. Indian dramatists like K.V. Subbana, B.V. Karnath, Shambhu Mitra,Vijay Tendulkar, and K.V. Akshara further added that post colonial maturity in Indian theatre.
Another important change in Indian theatre came with the introduction of English drama in India. The Indian dramatists through the contemporaneousness of the varied facets of the English drama for the very first time tried to illustrate the finer aspects of life teamed with the regular instances of the poverty, sufferings and agony of the common people.
Indian dramatists have aided in developing Indian theatre as the "total theatre" whilst reverberating the authenticity of the contemporaneousness in Indian drama.