(Last Updated on : 20/02/2009)
The rich chronicle of Indian drama and theater unveils the verity that the very tradition of Indian theater is atleast 5000 years old. "Natya Shastra" by Bharat Muni which happens to be the earliest book on dramaturgy was written in India somewhat in the 4TH Century AD. The history thus clearly indicates that India with her ethnicity, culture and tradition has patronized drama and theater since the ancient past of the remote rime. Although theater in India started in a narrative form or precisely in the form of song, music, recitation and dance in the ancient age yet, it is in the British era, Indian theater attained that colossal maturity. Theater in India under British rule was a weapon of protest against the Bristish imperialism yet it is certainly not an exaggeration to say that the very kernel of the modern drama in India was sown during that era. Although protest, rebel, revolt and disapproval against British raj lined the artistry of theater in India under British rule to a great extent yet it is during the British rule the germination of the harmonization of east and west made its presence felt for the first time. On a superficiasl basis the philosophy of the West and East might differ yet somewhere down the line the deep circular unification of western and eastern philoshy just cant be denied. This is perhaps another reason why indian culture, art, tradition and folklore gained an articulate diction during the British colonialism. Same is true with Indian drama and theater which attained its highest maturity in terms of expression and illustration under the British rule.
Theater in India under British rule gained a global contour. It is during this time theater in India came into a direct contact with the western theater. It is during this 200 years of British rule Indian drama became lot more contemporary and naturalistic. Gone are the days of eposes, epics and "Loknatya" - theater in India under British rule for the very first time geared up fully towards a systematic and natural presentation. India, as a colony of the European empire used theater to illustrate the likings, dislikings of the British raj. The stylistic approach of theater in India under British rule changed quite drastically and the presentation started focusing mainly on the day to day life and common people. With the colossal development of this particular style of drama theater in India under British rule did break the barriers of language, region, class and rank and gradually spread throughout India as a means of remonstration.
Theater in India under British rule therefore became a structured way of manifesting the daily life. It was no more laced with the heroic deeds of the celestial fiigures; it was no more woven around super powerful gods and mythological heroes--- rather it became the portrayal of the life and style of common man; an illustration of sufferings of the poor and the graphic presentation of the "unedited realities" of life.
Bengali theater, Hindi and Marathi theater made their presence felt quite largely in altering the socio political set up of India during the British rule. Theater in India under British rule thus slowly became a logical expression of democratic ideas, beliefs and mores. Theater groups were formed during this time and theater was then clearly divided into two distinct categories like the urban theater and the rural theater. Although folk theater was also there yet the colossal demand of altering the social, economic as well as the political set up of India was so very much that the quixotic brilliance of the folk thaeater somewhat faded away. It again revived its lost glory during and after the Indian independence.
Theater in India under British rule thus reverberates the history of Indian theater. Indian theater is lot more than just being a journey from the archaic theatrical pattern to the modish approach of contemporary theater. It is ofcourse a lot more than just being the representation of natya" and bhava; Indian theater thus is the reflection of the rich culture, undaunted spirit and ethnicity of India which definitely gained that desired shape during the 200 years of British Raj.