(Last Updated on : 19-06-2012)
Rich in history and pregnant with a copious past, theatre in Orissa offered Indian theatre an ethnographic feature. Widely known as "Gananatya", "Lokanatya" or "Opera", the Jatra in Orissa is considered as the old form of Oriya theatre. However, the very seed of contemporaneity in Oriya theatre was sown in the year 1872, when the students of the Catholic Mission School in Cuttack enacted an English play by Oliver Goldsmith. That was the beginning of the rise of theatre companies in Orissa to carry the legendary history of Indian theatre to further maturity. The establishment of a permanent stage in the year 1875, in Mahanga village by Jaga Mohan lala gave birth to the modish concept of theatre stage whilst ushering in the novel idea of the establishment of the theatre companies in Orissa to spread the magic of this eminent art form. This was indeed the raw beginning. A number of professional theatre companies in Orissa have emerged. One was owned by Banamali Pati.
However, the major theatre companies in Orissa were then the touring parties and this continued till the fag end of the 1940s when almost simultaneously two major theatre companies emerged in Cuttack and a third one in Puri. The changes were slowly induced. Gone are the days of Raslila and Prahlada Nataka. With the establishment of the theatre companies in Orissa like the Janata theatre, Kalasri theatre and Annapurna theatre, Oriya theatre gained that chic contour which it was lacking till then.
All these theatre companies in Orissa needed an uninterrupted supply of good drama to support Oriya theatre to stand apart and quite ideally therefore this period has been marked as the 'Golden Age' of Oriya theatre. A group of talented dramatists, a number of theatre companies in Orissa then instilled the changes in Oriya theatre whilst exploring human qualities and follies. The theatre companies in Orissa experimented with ideas whilst catering mainly to the demands of the middle class viewer ship.
The voyage of the theatre companies in Orissa which began to illustrate an age art form, unveils the journey of a rich timeline of Oriya theatre.