(Last Updated on : 16-07-2014)
English theatre is an age old custom in India, which made its presence felt on a serious level right from the Vedic Period
. Amidst the Vedic literature
, rituals and ethnicities, English theatre flourished tremendously. India as a nation is very comfortable in illustrating her mood through art and drama - Indian theatre
has proved the same in many occasions. Illustration of moods through, natya, lasya and mudra
have been rampant in Indian drama. Slowly, as a result, a typical and distinct style of dramaturgy actually evolved to promote Indian tradition, rituals, customs and ethnicity. Since then, which was just the beginning, there was no looking back. Both theatre in ancient India
and modern Indian theatre
have worked towards glorifying the culture of India and to provide a naturalistic and realistic viewpoint of the socio economic and political scenario of the country. With the establishment of English theatre, very slowly the old concept of Sanskrit theatre
started to fade away. Dramas were no longer the narrative forms, with heroes and celestial beings. But it became a true representation of the "unedited realisms" of Indian social life. Bengali theatre
, Marathi theatre, Kannada theatre
along with the innovativeness of the English theatre, therefore, added a fresh dimension to the artistry of Indian Theatre. The introduction of the artistic quality through the English theatre in India added that contemporary dimension to Indian drama
Origin of English Theatre in India
Modish aspect in Indian drama was first sown during the British Empire in India
, as then, Indian drama stood apart as the weapon of protest against the British Raj. It is then; English theatre in India made its presence felt quite enormously as a portrayal of the realisms of daily life. The contemporaneousness of the varied facets of the English theatre in India for the very first time then aided in illustrating the finer aspects of life teamed with the regular instances of the poverty, sufferings and agony of the common people. English theatres mainly initiated in different European countries and evolved in diverse stages; however in India English theatre arrived in the later part of the 17th century with the arrival of the "British East India Company". British colonialism then did play the major role in changing the Indian dramaturgy whilst making it lot more chic.
English theatre in India gained a dimension with the establishment of the three Presidency Towns by the British. Kolkata
therefore became the three-metropolis in exemplifying the true aura of contemporary art forms through the grace of English theatre. These cities then had the typical urban middle class audiences, which again helped in the thriving prosperity of the English theatre. The success of the English drama in India was then, not based on the sale of the tickets but was grounded on the support and patronage of the affluent class and the theatres were then an emblematic representation of the European ways of life. The colonial aspects, British Imperialism coupled with the tuneful harmonization of the Eastern and Western philosophy then crafted a marked change in the story line and in the dramatic art whilst making English drama in India a true representation of the British culture, ways of life and of course a depiction of the British exploitations.
English Playwrights from India
Step by step, chief Indian dramatist
emerged, who were fluent and confident in English Language
. Although Madhusudan Dutt
and Rabindranath Tagore
wrote in Bengali language
and contributed greatly to Bengali literature
, they translated many of their plays into English. Rabindranath Tagore as a dramatist
contributed greatly to English theatre.
Various Indian who went to England to study during that time, started to perform at various stages of theatre, as amateurs. Niranjan Pal son of the nationalist leader Bipin Chandra Pal
, started the Indian Players in London, producing his own scripts like The Goddess (1924), revived in Kolkata
after he returned in 1929.
T.P. Kailasam, another bilingual author, who lived six years in England, applied his two languages discretely. He composed Shakespearean-style English theatre on the Mahabharata
, but used spoken phrases and idiom for his Kannada theatre
plays on contemporary topics. He also recited his works extempore, and the stage directions in his six English plays (including The Purpose, 1944; Kama, 1946; Keechaka, 1949) reveal a strong theatrical sense unlike many closet English playwright and dramatist in India. Among the latter, who used the form more to tell a story through dialogue than as theatrical offerings, Sri Aurobindo Ghose
(1872-1950) and Harindranath Chattopadhyaya (1898-1990) left a large dramatic corpus chiefly on mythical or religious subjects.
English Theatre Personalities in India
The nature of the English drama in India again changed with the independence of India. It was then not only a representation of the European lifestyle but a lot more. English drama then became a typical art form in epitomizing the socio- political and economic status of Independent India. The rich chronicle of Indian drama, the colossal history of Indian Natya then witnessed a marked change with the advent of the eminent theatre personalities like Habib Tanvir
, K.N. Pannikar, Girish Karnad
, Vijay Tendulkar
, and many others who further carried English drama in India to the further step of maturity. English drama in India, which was once just the illustration of British mistreatment, then gained a further up to date projection as the theatre personalities then tried to highlight Indian tradition, folklore, custom, rituals, conventions, and rites amidst the innovativeness of English drama. Other dramatists with substantial output include the poet Nissim Ezekiel (1924-2004), Dina Mehta and Manjula Padmanabhan. The saga of English theatre, which began long back during the British Imperialism, continued further and is still an eminent part of various forms of theatre in India. Continuous study, deep understanding and above all the tuneful blend of the west and East have helped English drama in India as a distinct art form whilst aiding it to stand apart with pride and dignity.
English Theatre Companies in India
Among the various English-language troupes, the Theatre Group (Mumbai), led by the first major Indian director in English, Ebrahim Alkazi and later by Padamsee, is the most long-lived and accomplished. It staged original plays by Gieve Patel and Gurcharan Das, whose dance-drama Mira had premiered at La Mama, off-off-Broadway in 1970; and the freshest and most promising Indian-English dramatist, Mahesh Dattani. The Madras Players, who produced Girish Karnad's self-translated plays and held a competition for new scripts jointly with the daily The Hindu, and Delhi
's Yatrik also encouraged innovative playwriting, a strategy followed in current years by Lillete Dubey
's Prime Time Theatre.
The annual Deccan Herald theatre festival in Bengaluru
gave a boost to English drama by such local authors as Dattani and Poile Sengupta. The Sahitya Akademi Award
to Dattani for 'Final Solutions' and Other Plays (1994) finally gave Indian-English drama respectability.
A commercial or main stream English-language stage became a reality in Mumbai after Adi Marzban directed his comedy Ah! Norman (1972, adapted from Norman, Is That You? by Ron Clark and Sam Bobrick), a milestone hit logging up hundreds of performances.