Indian Theatre
  • Surbhi Jain

Theatre in India started as a narrative form, i.e., reciting, singing and dancing becoming integral elements of the theatre. This emphasis on narrative elements made our theatre essentially theatrical right from the beginning. That is why the theatre in India has encompassed all the other forms of literature and fine arts into its physical presentation: Literature, Mime, Music, Dance, Movement, Painting, Sculpture and Architecture – all mixed into one and being called ‘Natya’.

Indian theatre has a deep rooted relation with Indian epics and Indian mythologies and has thus witnessed the change in tradition. The forms of Indian theatre are therefore varied and can be broadly classified into six different genres like Classical Indian dance drama, traditional Indian theatre, Indian Folk Theatre, Indian Puppet theatre, Modern Indian theatre and the Indian Street Theatre. Forms may differ, yet every form of Indian Theatre carries the essence of the rich cultures and mores of India.

Major theatre groups and companies were formed during this time which further aided in making Indian theatre to carve a niche for itself. In the year 1943, Indian People’s theatre Association was formed which was a pre-eminent activist institution formed as an all Indian organization in Mumbai.

Theatre which began as just an art form gradually stood apart as an emblematic form of artistic expression. Theatre in India during and after the independence of India became an artistic illustration of the tradition and heritage of India. Indian drama and theatre, considered even older than its music and dance, possesses classical theatrical traditions, which have also influenced modern theatre, especially the Hindi, Marathi and Bengali plays.

The modern Indian theatre started to grow more in the 1850s as the theatre enthusiasts started to perform their own play on different languages which were based on western style. . This new hybrid form of Indian theatre turned to a ticketed theatre in the 1870s as it slipped from the hands of the riches. At the end of the 19th century, this modern form of Indian theatre became the source of earning of bread and butter to many. It moved to the hands of common public and turned into a commercial unit.

The legacy of Indian theatre is rich pregnant with a copious past. The tradition of folk theatre is alive in almost all the linguistic regions of the country. In addition, there also exists a rich tradition of puppet theatre in rural India.





  1. The two theatres added to the register this year are the Margate Theatre Royal, one of the oldest in Britain having been founded in 1787, and Streatham Hill Theatre, which hosted acting greats such as John Gielgud and Vivien Leigh but became a bingo hall until that closed last January. Two theatres from last year’s list have been demolished while the Futurist Theatre in Scarborough, which once staged performances by The Beatles, Morecambe And Wise and Shirley Bassey, is set for demolition in March. (Theatres Trust) “It’s a waste of potential,” O Briain told the Press Association at the Soho Theatre in London. “Standing on stage at a theatre doing the soundcheck you can feel the echoes of every show that’s happened there, but also potentially hundreds of shows in the future.


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