(Last Updated on : 21/09/2012)
Socio-political movement in Marathi theatre formed an inspiration for the theatre culture in the Indian state of Maharashtra. The year 1843 marks the beginning of Marathi drama and theatre
when Vishnudas Bhave with the performance of Seeta Swayamvar started a tradition of mythological plays (which lasted till 1860). This was the period when religious resentment, especially of the upper caste Hindus, towards the Christian missionaries had reached its peak. The theatre companies of this period were in the hands of Brahmins, pundits and shastris. The objective of these mythological plays, according to Bhave was national entertainment. The concept national includes consolidation of religious sentiments and moral values. The plays were mostly based on Ramayana
to show Lord Rama
as an ideal of manhood against the effeminate males portrayed by Tamasha
(a folk form of decadent Maratha period) which was still continuing at the time.
From 1861 a new tradition of historical plays started to evoke the emotions of patriotism rather than religious fervour. These plays were termed bookish plays since, for the first time, the script of the play was written down.
Although nearly 35 plays seem to have been written on the theme of social reforms pertaining to women till the 1930s, the 'golden era' of Marathi theatre is identified only with musical historical plays between 1885 to 1920, which had a patriotic message and very high standards of production and music. This is also characterized by the era of glorification of some of the male actors performing female roles.
Most theatre company owners, playwrights (specially Khadilkar), actors (such as Balgandharva) were highly influenced by the personality and political ideology of Bal Gangadhar Tilak
. Plays like Rana Bhimdev, Khara Rajput (Real Rajput) glorified virtues of self-righteousness, strength, valour, national and religious pride and martyrdom. All these plays were not subtle in conveying the messages and directly provoked the British rulers by characters and situations identical to the then prevailing political events.
Almost all the political events of that period, especially those taken up Lokmaya Tilak in his paper Kesari and Maratha became ready material for plays. A few examples: the Swadeshi movement and boycott on foreign goods advocated by Tilak reflected in the play Swadeshi Chalwal. In the first Natya Sammelan of 1906, a resolution was passed to use only Swadeshi material for theatre company requirements.
Partition of Bengal
got reflected in Divya Arunoday and British atrocities on the people demanding their right to sing 'Vande Mataram
' under the president ship of Surendranath Bannerjee
, a close friend of Lokmanya Tilak (were reflected) in the Marathi play Barisalchi Dhamdhum. Glorious accounts of some of the male actors who performed female roles mainly showed how these male actors, even when outside the theatre, could fool society by posing as women.