Indian theatre laced with its sheer natya and rasa since ages has delineated the Indian entertainment scenario. With its roots deeply seated in the antiquities of Sanskrit theatre, Indian theatre boasts of a rich heritage, unaffected by any foreign influence. Characters in Indian theatre indeed played the major role in shaping the contour of theatre. Characters in Indian theatre are regarded as one of the major elements of drama.
Characters in Indian theatre are mainly the people, involved in pursuing the plot. Each character has a distinct personality, age, appearance, beliefs, socio economic background and language in the play. A playwright's success ultimately depends on his ability to create a character that an actor can "bring to life". Thus, the way an actor plays a role, using his acting skills to create a character in a drama, is known as characterisation. Drama on stage often reflects the drama of everyday life, but it also concentrates life, focuses it, and holds it up for examination and the Characters in Indian drama ideally does that whilst carrying the message of the plot from the stage to the mass.
One important character in Indian theatre is the "Sutradhara". This is the central character in Sanskrit theatre. The character of sutradhara is matchless as he holds the metaphorical thread of the play. This runs through and holds together the various incidents in a play. Sutradhara, the most inevitable character in Indian theatre could impersonate a character and even can voice aloud the inner thoughts in the form of elaborated monologues to intervene between scenes with meta-theatrical remarks about his actors or the action. This eternalized him as a character in Indian theatre to deliver the bharatavakya. Kathak and Kathikaran are also other important characters in Indian theatre, mainly responsible for narrating the plot.
India is one of the few countries which can boast of an indigenous drama and the varied characters in Indian theatre amidst their myriad emotion and mood further established this art form to illustrate the unspoken thoughts. The journey of Indian theatre is long yet copious. The Sanskrit theatre gradually faded away leaving space to improvisations from the Indian myths. It was the time of the mythological plays in India where the characters in Indian drama mainly dealt within mythic elements and situations. With the ancient stories, deep buried long ago, the characters in Indian theatre amidst the mythological presentation carried drama to the next level of maturity.
However it is during and after the independence of India changes came in the whole theatre form in India to befit the requirement of the socio political changes. Changes in Indian theatre also marked the changes in characterisation in Indian theatre. Gradually Indian theatre broke the boundaries of raslila and eposes and became lot more contemporary. Categorically the characters in Indian theatre were then divided into two main categories like the male protagonist and the female characters. In the modern era however, music, timber, song, dance, dialogue and emotion all were for the first time incorporated in the Indian theatre to offer it a modern facet. Not only in the acting pattern, were changes observed even in the designing of the theatre hall during this time and indeed in the characterisation. The overdramatic aspects pf the characters in Indian theatre were rationalized. Common man, daily life, social problem, health and economical problem were nicely manifested in contemporary theatres through the sufferings, agony and happiness of the characters in Indian drama.