Playwrights like Michael Madhusudan Dutt and Rabindranath Tagoremade a great contribution to the English theatre. Though they were primarily writers, thinkers and pioneers of Bengali plays, but they translated many of their own works into English. Rabindranath Tagore as a Dramatist has made huge impact in the theatre society in west Bengal. In many cases Indian who set out to England for studies began to perform there in English, as, as amateur artists. Niranjan Pal (1889-1959), the son of great Bipin Chandra Pal, kick-started the Indian theatres in London, and even produced his own scripts like The Goddess (1924), revived in Kolkatain 1929, after his return.
Apart from these, there were other bilingual writers or authors who made contribution towards English theatres in India. T.P. Kailasam (1884-1946), spent six years in London and discretely used two languages he knew - Kannada Languageand English Language. He even composed Shakespearean-style English drama on the Mahabharata, but used spoken idiom for his Kannada plays on contemporary themes. Unlike many closet English dramatists in India, T.P. Kailasam, indulged in recitation of his work, scenography and direction of his own plays (he wrote six plays in English). Other writers like Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) and Harindranath Chattopadhyaya (1898-1990) dealt with religious or mystical subjects.
After India attained independence, there were around 200 plays that were written, though most of them were unperformed and some not even performable. Due to lack of stage opportunities actors and artists lacked the practical idea of the craft. During 1950s, some venom was injected into the English language theatre by Geoffrey and Laura Kendal, who mainly dealt with classics from Shakespeare. A decade after that, in 1960s, works of Asif Currimbhoy (1928-94) brought passion, power and complexity to original Indian-English drama in at least a dozen important plays on topical matters, but offended conservatives, which led to a ban on The Doldrummers (1961).
There were many drama troupes that came up in Mumbai during 1920s that staged original plays. The Mumbai Theatre Group was mainly led by Ebrahim Alkazi and later by Padamsee. 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.
Some of the important dramatists with significant output include poet Nissim Ezekiel (1924-2004), whose five plays show the effect of working with his mentor - Alkazi, in the Theatre Group; Dina Mehta, who won a worldwide BBC radio drama competition for Brides Are Not for Burning (1979), on dowry-related bride-burning; the prolific Madras-based Leo Fredericks, specializing in television drama with often exotic situations; and Manjula Padmanabhan from Delhi, who has written highly provocative scripts on social mores, such as Harvest, awarded the international Onassis Prize in 1997.
English theatre attained a commercial status in Mumbai, after Adi Marzban (1914-87) directed his comedy Ah! Norman (1972, adapted from Norman, Is That You? by Ron Clark and Sam Bobrick), a highlight hit sorting up hundreds of performances.
(Last Updated on : 17-07-2014)
|More Articles in English Theatre in India (2)|