Struggle In Theatre

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As Long As There Is Struggle, Theatre Will Live
-Panini Anand

The history of theatre is as old as the advent of communication in human civilization. While the histrionic art was institutionalized at a much later stage, its roots can be traced back to the time when the first message was conveyed between individuals through gestures.

The dramatics is not confined to humans alone; we see its reflection in several other species. Indian civilization has a rich legacy of theatre. It is the land of the Natya Shashtra, one of the oldest treatises on the performing arts written by the sage Bharata during the period between 200 BCE and 200 CE.

From Ramayana, Mahabharata and the epic plays of Kalidasa to the modern playwrights, the centuries-old
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Earlier, the people used to reach to the actors but now technology had made the skill of acting accessible to all. Both TV and cinema ensured that people no longer needed to gather at one place to watch the drama. This was the beginning of the downfall of theatre.

Slowly, theatre groups found it hard to survive. The hands that earlier held the strings of the stage curtain were forced to take up the tools of hard labor. Many performing artists were now reduced to apprentices in factories. The actors became a part of an industrial force that was turning the wheel of the development.

However, the fruits of this development were not for all to share. While the roads of cities like Delhi were glittering, the India living in villages was still engulfed in darkness. Basic amenities like medicines, hospitals, education, roads and transportation remained out of bounds for the majority of Indians and so did the constitutional as well as human rights. The theatre could remain alive only at places that were still untouched by the market
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Those involved in people's struggles knew that the centralized mediums of mass communication like newspapers, cinema, TV and Radio were insufficient to fulfill this role. These mediums were controlled by the rich and powerful and thus failed to raise the concerns of the common people. Groups like IPTA, Kabir Kala Manch, Habib Tanvir's Naya Theatre and Safdar Hashmi's Jan Natya Manch turned dramatics into an instrument of the fight against social injustice. This was a new and decentralized stream of theatre. It did not require huge investments like cinema and TV.

The dramatists like Habib Tanvir developed a form of theatre that required minimum resources. Their plays could be enacted even on the streets by a few volunteers. This new-age theatre emerged as the symbol of social change from the busy alleys of mega cities to the chaupals of far-flung villages.

One can find the glimpse of theatre in any popular agitation of our times. The kurta-clad volunteers can disseminate messages on the beat of their tambourine that few other mediums would dare to convey. The contemporary theatre has the power to communicate in popular expressions. It often tells stories that ruling elite would never like you to listen. Wherever there is a mass struggle, you will find theatre standing in

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