India’s theatrical heritage dates back over 5000 years and has its roots deeply rooted with Vedic ritualism and socio-cultural anthropology, which delineated the development of various dramatic forms of Indian theatre. Sanskrit Dramas was the aristocratic means of reflecting Indian life. Over time, it became lot more structured and contemporary and now the forms of Indian theatre therefore can fall into six different genres: Classical Indian dance drama, traditional Indian theatre, Indian Folk Theatre, Indian Puppet theatre, modern Indian theatre and Indian Street Theatre.
The aristocratic Sanskrit dramas gradually lost its appeal with the introduction of Indian classical dance drama. Developed in the early 15th century, Classical Indian Dance Drama gradually became a popular art form of the classical Hindu temple culture. Classical Indian dance drama incorporates artistic forms of Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Mohinittam and Yakshagana.
Traditional theatre performances were mainly connected with various Hindu religious cults and divinities and were mainly performed by devotees. Traditional Indian theatre as an art form was based on a was larger than life reflection of the world and monologues and soliloquies were prominent.
Today a more streamlined form of Indian theatre has emerged, which originated during the late 15th century which is referred to as “Folk theatre”. Folk theatre gradually emerged as a regional form of drama based on the attributes of local religion, legends, art, vernacular, history and mythology. Indian folk theatre can therefore be categorized into two distinct categories like the secular and religious; curiously, the two art forms continuously influenced each other whilst making Indian folk theatre to stand apart.
Forms of Indian theatre changed significantly with the introduction of Indian puppet theatre during the end of the medieval period. Although puppetry started in a fairly crude way, Indian puppet theatre gradually grew in popularity. Shadow puppetry, including string, rod and glove puppets are amongst the different forms of puppet theatre which are quite popular in India to this day.
Contemporary Indian theatre evolved during the British occupation. With the ensuing change in the socio and political landscape, Indian theatre and drama became more realistic. Historical plays, mythological characters, virtues and vices became less important and thus, the new form of Indian theatre. the “Modern Indian Theatre” was born – Modern theatre is generally classified into two types: amateur and experimental.
One of the most important and contemporary forms of Indian theatre is the Indian street theatre. Street theatre has emerged as a vehicle to illustrate socio political issues, in an effort to reach the general population. These intimate street theatres are an important way of highlighting prevalent social issues. Indian theatre gradually broke the barriers of orchestras pits and gallery seating and were much more accessible to the “common man”, as they open pop up at a market, bus stop and garage. This form if theatre has a relatively low cost base, the ability to purchase a ticket is much more accessible.
Given the growing Indian population in Australia, many local cultural groups and festivals have attracted highly popular work. In order for us to add more diversity to our theatrical pallet and gain a richer cultural understanding, we hope to see more Indian shows arrive on our shores soon.