Modern Indian Theatre and Social Change

The development of Modern Theatre in India is influenced by  200 years of the British rule and direct contact with the western theatre.

In Bombay, Calcutta and Madras London models of theatre were introduced to provide entertainment for the British soldiers and citizens.

Modern theatre reached the southern states in the beginning of the 19th century. The Tamil and the Malayalam theatre were prominent in them.

After independence the influence of Western literature, feelings of nationalism and pride of the glorious past of the country equally influenced Indian Theatre.

Sangeet Natak Akademi in January 1953 and National School of Drama was founded in 1959.

1972 was a landmark for the Indian vernacular theatre when Vijay Tendulkar\’s Marathi play \’Ghashiram Kotwal‘ became immense popular.

A new breed of directors like B. V. Karanth, Habib Tanvir, Bansi Kaul, Rattan Thiyyam and Feroz Khan contributed largely in modern contemporary theatre.

Manjula Padmanabhan was the first Indian to earn international acclaim with her play ‘Bitter Harvest’, which won the highest Greek honour.

Several film personalities had contributed for the growth and promotion of theatre. Few of them are; Dr Shriram Lagoo, Girish Karnad, Pearl Padamsee, Amol Palekar, Shashi Kapoor, Satish Kaushik, Farooq Shaikh, Naseeruddin Shah, Jaya Bacchan (Dr. Mukta, Ma Retire Hoti Hai) and Shabana Azmi (Tumhari Amrata, Waiting Room).

Theatre being a live and direct medium has its own USP and competing with television and films for its survival. In a country like India with number of different languages the concept of National Theatre has to be seen purely in regional terms.

Theatre And Social Change

The gravest social problems faced by India, at present includes: Corruption, Poverty, Unemployment, Illiteracy, Urbanization, Gender Inequality, Caste Discrimination, Dowry, Child Labour, Drug Abuse, Prostitution, Domestic Violence, Female Infanticide etc.

Most of the social evils being faced by Indian society have its roots in the rural India which need a careful analysis and demand rational solution and communication plays a vital role in this regard.

Theatre is a form of communication, whose primary role is to inform, entertain, persuade, and provide a means for connecting people. It is also a key medium in addressing sociological issues. Folk theatre are the predominant mass medium in rural India. Hence, in addressing the social evils, this medium has a great role to play.

The message communicated to the target audience are well narrated deems fit to the audience interests and able to make the rural audiences to think and analyze the problem.

Communication Model Of Theatre






Role of Theatre in addressing Social Issues

In India, over the years, street theatre has been playing a significant role in spreading awareness

Various theatre groups have scripted and performed street plays that deal with issues such as women\’s empowerment, child labour, children\’s education, usage of solar energy, the need to vote, examining the state of democracy, anti-sedition etc.

They have partnered with non-profit, grassroots organizations and conducted workshops in rural areas to spread awareness

The Chandigarh based theatre groups have spread awareness among the prisoners on issues ranging from sex education to social issues like corruption and terrorist attacks. The message was delivered in an effective manner as it is staged right in the middle of people without creating any distance between the performers and audience. (Times of India, Chandigarh, April 16, 2011)

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