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Modern Indian Theatre (A Reader)

Modern Indian Theatre (A Reader)
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Item Code: NAH520
Author: Nandi Bhatia
Publisher: Oxford University Press, New Delhi
Language: English
Edition: 2013
ISBN: 9780198075066
Pages: 519
Cover: Paperback
Other Details: 8.5 inch x 5.5 inch
weight of the book: 540 gms
About The Book

The role of theatre in shaping socio-political awareness since the late nineteenth century has generated enormous critical reflection and debate. Theatre’s engagement with the themes of colonialism, class, caste, and gender’s, its reimagining of the ‘nation’ and its communities at decisive historical moments: its response to mass media and to the proliferation and influence of western drama; and relationship to actors, scenery, space, and language are some critical issue addressed in this volume. The detailed Introduction by Nandi Bhatia examines the interface between Indian theatre and ‘modernity’, and reveals the multifaceted, hybrid, and contested formation of modern Indian Theatre.

 

About The Author

Nandi Bhatia is professor, Department of English, The University of Western Ontario, Canada. She is the author of Performing Women/Performing Womanhood (OUP 2010)and Acts of Authority/Acts of Resistance: Theatre and Politics in Colonial and Postcolonial India (OUP 2004).

 

Introduction

Since Javed Mallick's pessimistic reflections on the poverty of 'Theatre Criticism in India Today,' in 2000/ several studies have been published, which emphasize the inclusion of theatre in the theoretical and critical debates made possible by the increased emphasis on the links between nationalism, imperialism, and literatures from the colonized parts of the world. While suggesting these directions in theatre scholarship, they have also initiated inquiries into what constitutes modern Indian theatre, inevitably locating its changing and contested relationship to modernity in India's colonial and nationalist pasts, and post-colonial developments. Of note among the recently published studies are Aparna Bhargava Dharwadker's Theatres of Independence (2005) and Vasudha Dalmia's Poetics) Plays) and Performances (2006). Dharwadker's book interrogates the trends and developments in post-Independence urban drama in Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, and Kannada in relation to its colonial past. Dalmia's work is remarkable for providing an in-depth analysis of such concerns as they developed in Hindi drama since the late nineteenth century during the Bharatendu Yug, continuing through the Jayshankar Yug in the 1920s, the modernist phase in the 1960s, and in the work of avant-garde women playwrights/directors of the 1990s. Other studies include Minoti Chatterjee's Theatre Beyond the Threshold: Nationalism and the Bengali Stage (2004), and Nandi Bhatia's Acts of Authority/Acts of Resistance: Theater and Politics in Colonial and Postcolonial India (2004), along with anthologies of plays such as Tutun Mukherjee's Staging Resistance: Plays by Women in Translation (2005), Erin Mee's Drama Contemporary: India (2001), and G.P. Deshpande's Modern Indian Drama: An Anthology (2004). Together with earlier work such as Rustom Bharucha's Rehearsals of Revolution: The Political Theater of Bengal (1983) and Theatre and the World: Performance and the Politics of Culture (1992), and Jacob Scrampickal's Voice to the Voiceless: The Power of People's Theatre in India (1994), this expanding corpus of critical work on Indian theatre is important for several reasons. First, it indicates a growing interest in Indian theatre history and points towards the need for more work that subjects this highly pluralistic and diverse field to critical scrutiny. Second, it emphasizes the political side of theatre that has received insufficient attention as compared to its aesthetic dimensions, highlighting modern Indian theatre as a terrain that has the potential to question and contest authoritarian structures through the use of aesthetic forms that have been creatively altered. In addition, it enriches and supplements the treatment of Indian theatre in books such as Gilbert and Tompkins' Post-colonial Drama: Theory) Practice) Politics (1996), J. Ellen Gainor's Imperialism and Theatre: Essays on World Theatre) Drama and Performance (1995), and Brian Crow and Chris Banfield's An Introduction to Post-colonial Theatre (1996), which locate it within the comparative framework of theatrical practices from a variety of sites in Africa, the Caribbean, South Asia and the settler colonies of Australia and Canada. While this larger comparative focus is both useful and necessary, it becomes imperative, as Gilbert and Tompkins themselves point out in Post-colonial Drama, that since Indian drama and theatre's 'history/practice is extremely complex, it is impossible to do justice to Indian drama in a broadly comparative study. Moreover, the varieties of drama, dance, languages, and cultures that have influenced Indian theatre are [far] too vast to consider in a text other than one devoted to just India'.

Heeding such calls regarding the importance of theatre, the current volume assembles an archive of critical essays, excerpts, and theoretical and political statements written in English that reflect upon the changing visions for theatre since the late nineteenth century. Such an exercise acquires special relevance because the place of theatre in the literatures of modernity, Indian literature, and colonial and post-colonial studies is marked by ambivalence and marginality. On the one hand, since the late nineteenth century, theatre has remained central to social and political movements through anti-colonial plays that were subjected to censorship under the Dramatic Performances Act of 1876. It was also an important forum for progressive writers and political activists in the early twentieth century in many regions and has helped raise concerns in post-colonial India through institutions such as the National School of Drama (NSD) as well as through the efforts of fringe movements in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s onwards. This is true especially of street theatre. The thematic range of modern theatre includes the politics of the British Raj, conditions prevalent on tea and indigo plantations, workers' rights, famines, the 1947 Partition, psychosocial fragmentation, familial problems and urban angst, concerns with women's issues, dowry problems, and the rights of Dalits, among other issues. These wide-ranging concerns have been addressed in a number of creative ways including mythological dramas, folk forms and rituals, historical revivals, transformed versions of Euro-American plays, notably of Shakespeare and Brecht, and through avant-garde experimentation. On the other hand, within the expanding corpus of literary criticism on the literatures of India, it remains the genre that has received the least amount of critical attention.!

Although it is impossible to cover the entire terrain of modern Indian theatre in a single text, the pieces in the current volume speak about the many entanglements of traditional and European, classical, folk and ritualistic, and rural and urban forms and practices. In addition, they address the overlaps in colonialist, nationalist, and Orientalist positions that characterize and shape modem theatre. While representing a spectrum of perspectives including those of playwrights-directors themselves, important voices in theatre criticism and history, practice, and direction, as well as the less influential interjections that are nonetheless significant for understanding the demands made on theatre in the face of socio-political pressures and developments, the articles reveal the multi-faceted, hybrid, and contested formations of modem Indian theatre. The critical essays range from historical overviews to discussions of specific movements and moments in varied locations, languages, and socio-political contexts. Because of overlapping influences amongst various dramatic practices, they alter ways of seeing theatre strictly along linguistic or regional lines or neat divisions of Sanskrit, traditional, European, or folk theatre. Rather, they point towards the complicity of theatre historiography in promoting discrete and watertight divisions at specific political moments. Additionally, they address theatre's negotiation with the issues of class, caste, and gender, and the ways in which the nation came to be imagined from these varied perspectives at critical historical moments. Since performance constitutes a critical aspect of modern theatre, the articles in the current volume also address issues pertaining to the role of actors and the myriad meanings of scenery, performance spaces, architecture, and language. Overall, the articles confirm theatre's ambivalent and paradoxical relationship with modernity-both in terms of form and content. Remaining tied, as it did, to the national question, it represented contradictory positions, generated highly varied responses amongst practitioners, and developed unevenly across regions, localities, and languages. My introduction aims to provide a contextual history that enables an informed reading of the pieces in the current volume. This demands an unpacking of the changing meanings of modern Indian theatre.

 

Contents

 

     
  Acknowledgements ix
  Modern Indian Theatre: An Introduction by Nandi Bhatia xi
 
HISTORY, HISTORIOGRAPHY, AND THE 'MODERNITY' OF INDIAN THEATRE
 
  Towards a Genealogy of Indian Theatre Historiography  
  (Rakesh H. Solomon) 3
  A Historiography of Modern Indian Theatre  
  (Ananda Lal ) 31
  Reassembling the Modern: An Indian Theatre Map since Independence  
  (Anuradha Kapur) 41
  The Critique of Western Modernity in Post-Independence India  
  (Aparna Bhargava Dharwadker) 56
 
COLONIAL INFLUENCES, NATIONALIST SELF- EXPRESSION
 
  Different Shakespeares: The Bard in Colonial/Postcolonial India  
  (Jyotsna Singh) 77
  The Nation Staged: Nationalist Discourse in Late 19th Century Bengali Theatre  
  (Sudipto Chatterjee) 97
  Popular Theatre and the Rise of Nationalism in South India  
  (S. Theodore Baskaran) 132
  The Indian People's Theatre Association: A Preliminary Sketch of the Movement and the Organization 1942-47  
  (Malini Bhattacharya) 158
 
INTERROGATING THE NATION FROM THE MARGINS
 
  The Politics of Translating Indian Dalit Drama with Special Reference to Bali Adugal (Scapegoats)  
  (S. Armstrong) 185
  Retreating into Tribal Mansions: Race and Religion in Plays Written by Parsi Zoroastrians in India  
  (Nilufer E. Bharucha) 200
  In Search of Women in History of Mar at hi Theatre, 1843 to 1933  
  (Neera Adarkar) 219
  Reform and Revival: The Devadasi and Her Dance  
  (Amrit Srinivasan) 233
  'I Am a Hindu': Assertions and Queries  
  (Vasudha Dalmia) 261
 
RETHINKING THE RURAL/URBAN AND FOLK/CLASSICAL BINARIES IN POST-INDEPENDENCE INDIA
 
  In Defence of the 'Theatre of Roots'  
  (Suresh Awasthi) 295
  Enacting the Life of Rama: Classical Traditions in Contemporary Religious Folk Theatre of Northern India  
  (Lothar Lutze) 312
 
LANGUAGE, MYTH, AND MEDIA
 
  Reconstruction of Legend in Contemporary Panjabi Drama in India  
  (Pankaj K. Singh ) 327
  Indian Drama in English: Transcreation and the Indigenous Performance Tradition  
  (Christopher Balme) 344
  Neo-Sanskritic and Naturalistic Hindi Drama  
  (Diana Dimitrova ) 364
  Panjabi Drama and Theater  
  (Atamjit Singh) 392
  Encounter of the Performing Arts and Modern Mass Media  
  (J.C. Mathur) 406
  Drama on Television  
  (Kirti Jain ) 417
 
STATEMENTS
 
  A Bill to Empower the Government to Prohibit Certain Dramatic Performances 427
  The Stage  
  (Rabindranath Tagore) 431
  Proscenium-arch Stage  
  (Satya Prasad Barua ) 435
  National Theatre  
  (Bellary Raghava) 444
  A National Theatre Wanted: A Non-Commercial Theatre  
  (Baldoon Dhingra) 447
  Towards a National Theatre  
  (Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay ) 451
  Organisational Principles  
  (Indian People's Theatre Association ) 457
  In Search of Form  
  (Utpal Dutt) 462
  Contemporary Indian Theatre and its Relevance  
  (Mahesh Dattani) 469
  Sources 473
  Copyright Statement 477
  Notes on Contributors 481

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