Get complete information on the progress of theatre in Indian society


The evolution of the system of popular theatre plays can be traced in the history of South India. The theatre plays had various aspects like musical plays, ballets and ragakavayas from the last of which the modern forms of Kathakali developed. Later the modern Bharatanatyam took shape in which the dancer does not wear costume, but impersonates in nine various characters in story. Meanwhile the system of Street plays developed in Andhra and Kamataka.

In northern India, Calcutta witnessed the birth of modern drama. The first stage-play in Bengali language was produced in Calcutta by a Russian indologists, Lebedev in 1795. It was an adaptation of the English comedy ‘The Disguise’.

The actors and actresses used mixed English-Bengali to cater to the needs of a mixed audience.


The first play in Bengali written by Pandit Ramnarayan was named Kulin Kulasarvarana which was a social satire against the practice of polygamy among upper caste Brahmins another popular play of Ramnarayan was Ratnavali. Another notable dramatist was Madhusudan Dutt who wrote a number of popular plays.

Dinbandhu Mitra shot to fame with the publication of his play Nil Darpan which highlighted the atrocities of the British Indigo planters in Bengal Presidency. The play created a political sensation in the nationalist circles in India. Even the government was alarmed and appointed an Indigo Commission in 1860. The recommendations were incorporated in Act VI of 1861.

The Bengal Indigo planters developed cold feet and gradually moved out of Bihar and U.P. Other notable playwrights were Jyotirindranath, Manmohan Basu, Dwijendralal Roy and Grishchandra Ghosh. Rabindranath Tagore’s plays though very thoughtful did not catch the popular imagination of the common man in Bengal.

Prithviraj Kapoor was another notable playwright. He set up the Prithvi Theatres, which was the first professional Hindi Theatre group with a permanent staff. Prithviraj believed that popular plays could provide good entertainment and also reform Indian society. His most popular plays were Shakuntla, Dewar, Pathan, Ghaddar, Kalaakar, Paisa, Kissan and Ahuti.


Other theatre organisations in India were Theatre Unit, Anamika, Three Arts Club, Indraprastha Theatre, Little Theatre Group and Delhi Arts Theatre. The establishment of the National School of Drama in Delhi was another landmark in the development of Theatre Organisations.

The latest trend in the field of Theatre organisation is to attempt a workable synthesis of the traditional Indian and Western style and techniques regarding issues and problems facing humanity in general both in the East and the West.

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