The use of folk theatre strategies, the contours of fresh, innovative and flexible dramatic form have gradually emerged, to telescope different points in time and space, to bring in many levels of reality simultaneously, or to negotiate them freely in any order. The new form promises to restore the essential imaginative character of drama suitable for presenting complex human experience.
The details of staging of Indian Folk Theatre, a popular form of entertainment and employment of costumes, make-up, rituals, brilliant spectacle, and its performances are interesting. The cycles of plays such as Ramlila based on the Ramayana are performed in Ramnagar, Varanasi and elsewhere. Certain characteristics are common to the folk drama; the use of outdoor settings and arena stages, the telescoping of time and space by a commentator singer, the incorporation of music and dance with dramatic action, the prominence on stylisation and importance of colour; the role of the clown who reveals life through ridicule and humour and the direct participation of the audience with the performance. The folk play is performed in a variety of arena settings: round, parabolic, horizontal, and square and multiple set stages with special types of gangways and 'flower paths'. The folk actor uses very few props. He creates palaces, rivers, forests, battle scenes and royal courts by the sorcery of his art.
The modern Indian stage in its process of evolution has absorbed the cultural richness of the classical drama, the folk traditions of the medieval times and above all the influence of the West. The Madras theatre in fact includes the Tamil, Telugu and Kanarese theatres. The Tamil theatre still indulges in medieval practices; plaintive songs and acrobatic feats to arouse interest. The Telugu stage is, on the other hand is developing more speedily, while going through the mythological, bookish, historical and social types of productions. The Kanarese theatre is making remarkable progress in Bengaluru and some noteworthy companies are coming into existence in Mysore. Bengal has a regional theatre which has gone far ahead in realising the ideal of a true synthesis of old and new forms, without of course, actually reviving the old folk theatre. The Bengali stage is highly artistic. Its distinguishing feature is that all feminine roles are played by women. The novel use of song and dance is another special feature of the theatre in Kolkata.
Like the Bengali Theatre, the Marathi Theatre began mainly under British influence, but soon liberated itself from it and established a considerable repertoire which is good as literature as well as for purposes of the theatre. Scenes and costumes in Marathi drama and theatre lack splendour. It concentrates its effort on natural acting and scientific music. It follows the system of discontinuous serious scenes with light ones. The Hindi theatre, comparatively a later development, has been developing in Uttar Pradesh after the appearance of the dramatist, Bharatendu Harishchandra. By far the greatest contribution to the Hindi stage has surely been made in recent years by the actor producer, Prithviraj Kapoor, who started his Prithvi Theatre in 1945 in Mumbai. Prithviraj did a genuine service to the country by bringing life and vigour to the Hindi stage. The theatrical performances of Prithviraj were very simple, natural and well-timed, and had a great appeal to the minds of the cultured.
Folk theatre in India is mainly narrative in its form. This indeed points towards the origin and the age-old sagas of the Sutradhara in Indian Natya. The narrator or the sutradhara in order to make his visual art lot more inventive slowly involved acting into his narrative description which in an intimate manner later gave rise to the tradition of narratives in Indian folk theatre. Folk theatre in India still has retained its age old narrative form while echoing a highly dramatic narrative style. There is a long tradition of folk entertainers who either move alone or in groups in rural India. They are the entertainers as well as the preachers of value, philosophical tenets and indeed of religious cult. Folk theatre has adopted their mode of expression amidst dance, music and songs. Thus the spirited, dynamic and ingenious in forms and rich in variety, Indian folk theatre has established itself as the powerful medium of communication in folk cultures. With its timber and colour, dash and ‚lan folk theatre in India is more than entertainment; rather an emotional experience and an effort of creating "an environment of receptivity in which communication of ideas is an effortless process".
The typical concept of stage designing of folk theatre in India once again points towards its simplicity. The actors of the Indian folk theatre generally perform in the make-shift stage. This supports immensely in conversing with the audience in the course of the play as audience participation is an essential part of Indian Folk theatre. The stage for the folk theatres is generally a colossal empty space, which the actors dexterously control and employ to complement with their dialogues and symbolic gestures. Elaborate make ups, masks, chorus, loud music and folk dance are indeed the hallmark of the Indian folk theatre. With its sheer verve therefore Indian folk theatre is just not a theatre form but is a lot more. It unfurls the saga of the voyage of Indian drama from the eposes to the modish theatre pattern. It is the chronicle of Indian drama where for the very first time theatre broke the barrier of orchestra and pits and reached the mass in a whole new way through the quixotic brilliance of music, song and folklores.
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