Indian Drama in Retrospect offers a sweeping survey of theatre in most of the States of
India, presented by front-ranking figures in the early phase of post-independence theatre.
The contributors capture for us the discourse of the day pertaining to theatre in their
regions and languages, which is further underscored by the discussions which follow the
papers. There are twenty-one papers here representing as many States of India, offering a
fund of authentic information on the practice of theatre in each linguistic region. Besides,
there are twelve papers focused on special topics such as amateur theatre,, children'
theatre, actors' training, and theatre, architecture. Besides students of theatre, this book
will be of much value to scholars investigating the history of the performing arts in modern
India, those studying arts policy and patronage, and those with a special interest in the
relationship of the arts and the State.
Jayant Kastuar is Secretary of Sangeet Natak Akademi. An alumnus of St.
Stephen's College, Delhi, he obtained a Master's degree in history from the University of
Delhi in 1978. He is an exponent of Kathak dance, and has studied the art under Pandit
Durgalal among other masters. Apart from visualizing, planning, and steering important
projects in the fields of dance, music, theatre and puppetry, he is known for his work in
stage design and for his choreographic presentations.
Between 1955 and 1958, Sangeet Natak Akademi had organized four major seminars focusing on
film (1955), Drama (1956), Music (1957), and dance (1958), the arts it was meant to nature.
These events were the first all-Indian seminars convened by the national academy (which
itself had been established in 1953) to discuss the state of the performing arts and the
cinema in independent India, and enjoyed the participation of the leading artists, scholars,
and other professional it each field. At a time when meetings of musicians, dancers, or
theatre people from all over the country were far less frequent than now, these seminars
provided an opportunity to participants to exchange notes on the practice of their arts in
far-flung regions, to spell out common problems before the new Indian state, and to make
long-term recommendations to government for the healthy growth of each art.
Other than the Film Seminar Report, impeccably edited by Dr. R.M. Ray and published
by Sangeet Natak Akademi in 1956, the proceedings of these seminars had not been published
earlier in book form. The documentation from the Drama Seminar was published in three
consecutive special numbers of the Akademi's journal Sangeet Natak (Volume XXXVIII, Numbers
2-4, 2004), but this is the first time that the material is being presented between two
Fifty-one years after the event, the papers presented in the seminar command our
attention for more than one reason. They offer a sweeping survey of theatre in most of the
linguistic regions of the country, presented by leading figures in contemporary theatre. It
is no doubt a dated survey, but its interest to us lies precisely in its period and in the
personalities of the surveyors. Being acknowledged spokesmen for the regions they represent,
the contributors capture for us the discourse of the day pertaining to their language
theatres, which is further underscored by the discussions which follow the papers. There are
twenty-one 'country papers' here, a fund of authentic information on every language theatre
represented in the seminar. Besides, there are twelve papers focused on topics of general
interest: new drama, the amateur theatre, children's theatre, actors' training, theatre
architecture, etc. to the reader leafing through these pages, the narrative may itself
appear to be a replay of post-independence Indian theatre in its early phase, with its full
cast of actors a drama he is uniquely privileged to watch with the gift of hindsight.
In order to preserve this character of the text, we have thought it best to make
available the documentation of the seminar much as it has come down to us, with only minimal
editorial intervention. Positioning ourselves as watchers of the drama, we can see the
makers of the new Indian theatre articulating their vision for the future more clearly. What
they have to say would interest students of the theatre primarily, together with those
involved with the performing arts in general. But other than these sections of readers, the
book will also engage the attention of researchers in the humanities and social sciences
looking into the history of the performing arts in modern India, into arts policy and
patronage, and the relationship of the arts and the state. At a time when nationhood and
national identity continue to be under academic debate, the material presented in this book
will certainly interest scholars curious to learn about the cultural aspect of
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