The beginning of the twentieth century brought in the era of social reforms and the national movement. Many social and historical plays written for the Parsi theatre became very popular. Some were banned and the playwrights imprisoned by the British government. Taking the cue from Parsi theatre, authors writing novels and short stories in Rajasthani also took to theatre. They thought it as a powerful weapon of propaganda against social and political evils. Through their plays, they tried to force society to react and eradicate these problems. Shiv Charan Bhartiya, who was the first Rajasthani dramatist, published Kesarvilas in 1900.
This was followed by Budhapa ki sagai i.e. 'Old-age Betrothal' in 1906 and Phataka janjal or 'Snare of Future Trade' in 1907. In his introduction to Phataka janjal, Bhartiya wrote that his main aim was to show social evils to the Rajasthani people. Bhagwati Prasad Daruka wrote Vriddh vivah natak i.e. 'Play of Elders' Marriage' in 1903, dealing with old men wedding young girls, and Bal vivah natak i.e. 'Play of Child Marriage' in 1918. Other notable plays included Gulab Chand Nagauris Marivadi mausar aur sagai janjal i.e. 'Rituals of the Dead and Snares of Betrothal' in 1923 and Balkrishna Lahoti's Kanya bikri i.e. 'Sale of Girls' in 1938.
Narayandas Agarwal made an interesting experiment in Maharana Pratap in 1924, where different characters delivered their dialogue in their own languages. The examples can be given as Maharaja Prithiviraj spoke the dialect of Bikaner, Akbar spoke in Persianized Urdu, Maharana Pratap and his courtiers in Mewari, and the Bhils who formed the core of Pratap's army used their tribal language.
Marathi drama and theatre are active in form from the middle of the 19th century and it is continuing till date the folk arts of Maharashtra being the backbone of its cultural ethos Maharashtra thrives to be the melting pot of several poles apart contradictory yet harmonious identities. Medieval India witnessed overseas invasion, the silhouette of the same falling obliquely on Indian theatre chiefly Marathi theatre. Apart from the consolidation of a different territory Marathi glorious history can be traced back to several times, Maharashtra even indulging in the linguistic freedom.
After Bengali theatre in India, Marathi drama is indeed a pivotal break through, the Marathi culture oozing throughout. Marathi Theatre is an art form considered to be very rich aspect in Indian culture. Marathi theatre rose in full swing in Pune and Mumbai, with the inception of dramas by Vishnupath Bhave, who used amorous and tragic themes. Bhave specialized in light hearted farcical themes; comically slaughtering the contemporary social developments providing a conducive platform to the upcoming good work. Sangeet Shrada is rightly the pioneer of social Marathi drama, intoxicating with its artistic and progressive focal points.
Influenced by Yakshagana, the traditional dance drama of rural Karnataka, the Marathi drama achieved a clear regional form by the middle of the 19th century. Marathi theatre at first was more of an untried experimental theatre derived from the folk forms and the already breathing Shakespearean and Parsi dramas. 'Natak Companies' were then floated, with an addition of the Hindustani classical music and dance in Marathi plays that were replete with mythological and social themes, which became popular instantly. Even historical plays about the famous Marathi heroes like Shivaji and others, began to be written and presented. As these were banned, the Marathi dramatists invented subtle stratagems to present their point of view in allegorical fantasies or in farcical comedies.
Humorous social plays came later which gradually became a speciality of Marathi stage. A leading contemporary dramatist, Mama Varerkar wrote social plays in a realistic style, attempting a synthesis between European convention and Indian content. He gave a tremendous lead to the younger groups, which have been re-creating the Maharashtra village theatre through the Powada and the Tamasha. Years between the time gap1885-1920 were productive enough in terms of quality and the quantity of the plays and a delight for theatre connoisseurs.
Gujarati theatre has a rich history and tradition with prosperous tradition of writing and performing Sanskrit theatre till the fourteenth century, when a folksinger of religious narratives, Asaita Thakar, start on a participatory form called Bhavai using mythological and historical themes and characters, creating awareness among audiences on social issues. Types of Gujarati theatre is more than 150 years old and has produced many actors, directors and writers with tremendous talents.
Naath Theatre: Kamlesh Mota and Babul Bhavsar established this in 1992 with an aim to provide a message to the masses while entertaining them through the plays. This Gujarati theatre in Mumbai presents regular Hindi and Gujarati plays. It is also associated with the premier institution of art "Sangeet Kala Kendra". The plays of this theatre are staged in the UAE and East Africa. The most prestigious play by Naath Theatre is "Saraswati Chandra", which won five awards by the Transmedia Software Private Limited in the year 2003-04'.
Ideas Unlimited: This theatre has promoted the Gujarati literature and culture to a wider audience. It tries to create an interest and appreciation of the rich Gujarati cultural heritage among the young generation through theatre. It is considered as the only Gujarati theatre group in the city, which is modern in sensibility.
Kala Sangam: It is one of the most talent creator Gujarati theatre group in Mumbai.
Parsi theatre was highly influential in 1850s and 1930s. Parsi Theatre can be seen as India's first modern commercial theatre. It was an aggregate of European techniques, pageantry, and local forms, enormously successful in the subcontinent. As the name indicates, it was subsidized to a great extent by Parsis. Parsis were mainly engaged in trading and shipbuilding. They eventually became an important business force on the west coast by the early nineteenth century, and began to cultivate the arts and philanthropy. A Parsi, Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, bought the colonial Bombay Theatre in 1835. In 1846 the Grant Road Theatre in Bombay, constructed by Jagannath Sunkersett began hosting plays in English, then in Marathi, Gujarati, and Urdu or Hindi.
The first Parsi production is normally dated to October 1853, by the Parsee Stage Players at Grant Road Theatre. Beginning as amateur groups that soon turned professional, many new troupes were launched in this period of rapid expansion when audiences grew large, made up mostly of Bombay's middle class. Major ones included the Parsee Stage Players, Victoria Theatrical Company, Elphinstone Dramatic Club, Zoroastrian Theatrical Club, Alfred Theatrical Company, Madan Theatres in Calcutta, Empress Victoria Theatrical Company and Shakespeare Natak Mandali. By the 1890s, they employed salaried dramatists and actors. They built their own playhouses, and printed their scripts. They may have had many Parsi financiers, managers, performers, and patrons. But the personnel were by no means exclusively Parsi. Considerable cross-regional and cross-linguistic movement of artists and writers led to a heterogeneous mix at a broadly national level, with the result that Parsi companies not only worked in Gujarati, Urdu, Hindi, and even English, but inspired theatres in virtually every corner of India. This created perhaps the largest ticket-buying audience in Indian stage history. By 1900, troupes had started in Karachi, Lahore, Jodhpur, Agra, Aligarh, Meerut, Lucknow, and Hyderabad. Although Parsi theatre survived till the 1940s and beyond, notably with Fida Hussain in Calcutta, after the 1920s a majority of the companies transformed into movie studios once the Indian cinema industry was inaugurated. Later, with the coming of the talkies i.e. Alam Ara in 1931, most of them either closed down or grew into larger units. But one way or another, Parsi capital sustained at least three major studios namely Imperial Film, Minerva Movie tone, Wadia Movie tone and one distribution network, the Madan Theatres.
(Last Updated on : 02-08-2013)
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