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Exploring the Culture of Theatre throughout India

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Theatre has always had the capacity and capability of not only enacting but of also reminding what has been forgotten by the general public. Though this art form has somewhat lost the attention and love of its audience. Theatre still strives across the nation with the same passion and enigma. DU Express celebrates the culture of Theatre throughout India.

The Madras Players

The Madras Players is the oldest English-language theatre group in Chennai. When its predecessor, Madras Dramatic Society closed down, it left most of its props and make-up equipment to N. S. Yamuna and Gayathri (Grace) Krishnaswamy. That is how The Madras Players was born. In its early stage, the group picked up plays by British authors. In the 70s it started performing translated plays from Indian languages. It has staged over 240 productions over more than 50 years. Its plays like ‘Yayati’, ‘Evam Indrajit’ and ‘Adhe Adhure’ deserve special mentions. Girish Karnad was one of the oldest members of this group. To defeat the pandemic and celebrate its 65th anniversary, Madras Players started their Youtube Channel in the midst of lockdown. 

When the history of theatre in Madras is written, the name of Madras Players, the first and for a long while the only serious English language theatre group in the city, will lead the rest of the pack. – THE HINDU” 

Nandikar Theatre

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Travelling towards its 62nd year of Excellence, Nandikar has produced about 80 Plays, performed these nearly 8500 times across the nation. It holds a prominent place in Bengal’s performing arts circuit. Its logo was designed by Satyajit Ray. Nandikar’s founder, Ajitesh Bandopadhyay, Shambhu Mitra, and Utpal Dutt are considered to be the doyens of Bengali theatre of the post-Independence era. 

Theatre throughout India
Source – Nandikar Theatre

Kohinoor theatre

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Since its start in 1976, the Kohinoor is known for the ground-breaking changes in mobile theatre by introducing innovative measures in terms of technique, acting, presentation and direction. Ratan Lahkar’s Kohinoor Theatre also holds the distinction of being the only Assamese group to have performed in the national capital in 2010 at the invitation of the National School of Drama. On the day of their performance, IPL’s final was also set to happen. The then Director of the National School of Drama, Dr. Anuradha Kapur applauded Ratan Da by saying, “You clearly beat the IPL.” Plays like ‘Titanic’ gathered public attention and was staged thrice in a day instead of the scheduled one. A lot of their plays are written by Hemanta Dutta and Abhijeet Bhattacharya. 

Prithvi Theatre

The Prithvi Theatre is a subsidiary of the Shri Prithviraj Kapoor Memorial Trust & Research Foundation. It has been celebrating Arts for 40 years now, with almost 640 shows per year. Prithvi also organises discussions, readings and music sessions, details of which can be found on their website. ‘Chai and Why?’ is a monthly informal discussion on scientific issues outside a traditional academic setting. Not just a theatre, this space also encompasses a cafe and a bookshop. ‘Caferati’, which happens every 4th Monday of a month allows you two minutes of your own with the audience and your art. So whenever your curious whim finds itself thirsty in Mumbai, check the programmes currently running at Prithvi theatre and quench your thirst. 

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Theatre throughout India
Source – Prithvi Theatre

Ekjute Theatre

Ekjute was founded by prominent theatre personality, Nadira Zaheer Babbar and Raj Babbar in 1981. Since then Ekjute has been a pioneering group in the Hindi performing arts scene. Apart from writing and directing its own plays such as ‘Doorbeen’ and ‘Yeh Hai Bombay Meri Jaan’, it has also adapted and presented works of several eminent playwrights such as Agha Hashr Kashmiri, Bertolt Brecht, Albert Camus, and Badal Sircar. Ekjute has also staged the biographical play of M.F. Hussain, ‘Pencil sey Brush Tak’. Hussain himself was closely associated with the production and designing of sets. Ekjute also organises the workshop named- ‘know the actor in you’ and workshops for children as well. 

Theatre throughout India
Ekjute Theatre

Asmita Theatre

Asmita has carved its place in the Delhi Circuit since its inception in 1993. It has staged plays of varied socio-political interest while not losing out mass appeal. The group has more than 100 productions to its credit and on average has been performing for about 60 nights a year. What drives Asmita towards its creative lineage is Arvind Gaur’s passion for thinking, telling and enacting stories. Its alumni base includes Piyush Mishra, Manu Rishi, and Deepak Dobriyal. It has to its credit some spectacular plays like ‘Warren Hastings ka Saand’ and ‘Ek Mamooli Admi’. They have also staged several adaptations like  Dario Fo’s, ‘Accidental Death of an Anarchist’ and Girish Karnad’s ‘RAKT- KALYAN’. 

Theatre throughout India
A still from the play, ‘Ambedkar aur Gandhi’
Source- Asmita Theatre

Sukhmanch

“Sukhmanch took birth through a revolt. I faced harassment where I worked for 14 years. I left that place immediately and didn’t know anything apart from theatre”, said the founder of Sukhmanch Theatre, Shilpi Marwah in an interview. The group’s name is inspired by her mother’s name. Since its inception in 2017, Sukhmanch has staged some spectacular plays like ‘Kasturba vs. Gandhi’ and ‘A Woman Alone’. The group has also performed plays in remembrance of various artists like ‘Manto ke Afsane’ and ‘Bebaak Ismat’. The group also keeps presenting street plays at various social events, the most recent being ‘Wajood’ and ‘Udan Khatola’.

Theatre throughout India
Source – Sukhmanch Theatre

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