(Last Updated on : 14-09-2012)
Women in modern Indian theatre have been depicted in various shades. The question of gender has remained almost unaddressed in performance of modern Indian theatre
. It has been seen that, in most of the studies done by scholars, works of modern theatre personalities attempts to destabilize regressive notions of tradition and to undo the sutures that have been put in place to hold together the idea of a composite Indian identity. In the recent years, people have become increasingly attentive to gender issues, interrogating the relationship of women to nationalism and modernity in the dramatic sphere, on the stage and in print culture, through thematic representations of women in theatre and through their contribution as actors, directors, and writers of plays.
Susan Seizer's work on actresses of Special Drama in Tamil Nadu
(2005), Minoti Chatterjee's Theatre on the Threshold (2004), Deepti Priya Mehrotra's Gulab Bai (2006) that details the story of a Nautanki
dancer in the 1930s, and Rimli Bhattacharya's discussion of the Bengali actress Binodini Dasi
in My Story and My Life as an Actress (1998) elucidate how the images, roles, and lives of women as actors, performers, and participants involved complex negotiations with prevailing social ideologies and middle-class assumptions that emerged in response to the derisive discourses of colonialism. Additionally, Tutun Mukherjee's Staging Resistance (2005), Lakshmi Subramanyam's Muffled Voices (2002), and Betty Bernhard's video recording of contemporary theatre activists (1998) represent a variety of positions and perspectives.
The nineteenth century nationalist themed Bengali theatre
became complicit in the thematic erasure of women, despite the latter's participation in anti-colonial agitations. Discussing the position of women in Marathi drama and theatre
from 1843 to 1933, the recorded history of Marathi theatre show both marginalized and undervalued women's real contribution to theatre.
In all India theatre movement, which is known as Indian People's Theatre Association
, IPTA, there was tremendous contribution on part of women and that actually helped in the success of the movement. There are also evidences that show that women, through the efforts of Anuradha Kapur, Tripurari Sharma, Maya Rao, and others in the 1970s and 1980s onwards took an active part in intensifying the street theatres, which kept the legacy of the IPTA alive.
The IPTA did play a crucial role in paving the way for women such as Shanta and Dina Gandhi (Pathak), Zohra Sahgal
, and Sheila Bhatia
, who played a significant role in the arena of performance by making culture a nationalist concern. Credit should also be given to these directors for taking up the many strands which had evolved through the post-Independence decades, the folk, the classical, Western high bourgeois, but also the feminist and the cinematic, to weave them together into a modernist idiom.