Thursday, June 17, 2010

Indian Drama & Theatre

In Natya Shastra, one of the world`s oldest and the most outstanding treatises on drama, the Indian sage Bharat Muni had defined Indian drama as: "Of the actions and conduct of people, rich in various emotions, depicting different situations. This relates to actions of men good, bad and different and gives courage, amusement, happiness, and advice to all of them." This sublime and admirable theory has since long served as the keystone of drama in India, which had served as the nucleus of all artistic activities in the country right from the most erstwhile times, as this very Natya Shastra puts it, "There is no such knowledge, no such craft, no such education, no such art, no such yoga, no such activity, which cannot be seen in theatre." During ancient times in India, drama was looked at as the most the popular and accepted means for the concerns, foils, foibles, leisure, amusement and all, other human emotions to be portrayed and represented on the stage in the country right from the former times to contemporary era.

The term "unity in diversity" finds an eloquent utterance in Indian drama and theatre, which has verily been considered as one of the oldest art forms. Indian drama is perhaps even older than Indian dance and music. The people of the country possess an impressive history of expressing themselves through dramatic expression since the remote past. Quite ideally therefore, the history of Indian folk theatre and drama can actually be traced back amidst the religious ritualism of the Aryans and also in the midst of the dance pattern and amidst the style of everyday living. This further holds the truth that Indian drama and theatre is definitely one of the most erstwhile genre of art form.

Drama in India depicts people going through specific eventful period in their lives, both in serious and humorous a manner. A play comes fully to life only on the stage, where it blends and immixes numerous arts, that has been developed by those of the author, director, actor, designer and others. Dramatic performance involves an intricate process of rehearsal, based upon imagery inherent in the dramatic text. While into a drama, the beginning should convey to the audience or reader what took place before the story leads into the present action. The middle part carries the action forward, amidst trouble and complications. As end nears, the conflict is resolved and the story comes to a satisfactory, but not necessarily a happy conclusion. The plots for both drama in India as well for the whole world, needs to be filled with action. The play also requires penetrating both the heart and mind and representing man as he is, in all his misery and glory.

As has been long established by the ancient Indian playwrights or the most intelligent minds, Indian drama possesses specific execution rules and regulations, that has been followed till now, with most thrust been given during the Classical Age. A long play is generally known to unfold with a prayer, succeeded by a dialogue between the manager and one of the actors, during which the audience is attributed accolades and the chief circumstances of the ensuing presentation described. Later, by employing adept management the dialogue unites and coalesces into the play. When performing drama in India, a play is generally divided into acts and scenes, the intermissions of which are satiated by musicians. The greater part of the long play appears in prose, whereas the more fervent passages rely on verse, the four-line stanza being utilised for the most part. (For instance, virtually half of Sakuntala, by Kalidasa, has been represented in this form). There exists umpteen lyrical scenes, in which lovely much more passionate things in nature are described, including several moral observations and principles of wisdom. Such lines are generally mostly fed into the mouth of a significant character and are rendered in Sanskrit, which interestingly has not served as the common language of India since approximately 300 B.C. However, Sanskrit still finds usage as a spoken dialect by Brahmin priests. While the Gods, heroes and the few autho0ritative personas speak in this noble tongue, the women, slaves and all minor characters employ the vernacular of the lower class. The play closes up, as it unfolds, with a prayer.

The demonstration of unnecessary and uncalled-for eagerness of love is not looked at as well-behaved or aesthetically tolerable and acceptable; nor prodigal expressions of jealousy, hate, or anger - in fact, nothing too much sensational or violent is at all advisable within the parlance of Indian drama. Sorrow is muffled and moderated to an almost `gentle melancholy` while on stage. Kissing, sleeping, eating, itching, or yawning are considered too impolite during performance; and there never exists any acknowledgment to such topics as deportation, plague, or national calamity of any sort. Encompassed within the rule book of drama in India, there exists stock figures, such as the proficient courtesan, the jester, the humble confidant, or the immediate companion of the hero. There also exist stock comic situations, just like the complaint of the obstinate servant and almost deriding anguish over the death of a wealthy relative. Other devices and elements of the stage, such as the play within a play, the discovering of hidden letters and the capers of drunken men, are as well known and as admired in India as elsewhere in the arena of drama and theatre. Magical and supernatural events possess to endeavour a major part in the action of many pieces: characters are put under a spell of curse, bewitched, or forced to take on the form of an animal or a tree. In many of these instances, as with Greek tragedy, the intervention of a Divine is very much demanded to emancipate the victim from his tribulations.

Indian drama and theatre, considered even older than its music and dance, possesses classical theatrical traditions, which have also influenced modern theatre, especially the Hindi, Marathi and Bengali plays. The tradition of folk theatre is alive in almost all the linguistic regions of the country. In addition, there also exists a rich tradition of puppet theatre in rural India. In the initial times, dramas were penned on the basis and foundation of the epics and Puranas. As such, people could generate much interest in the dramas performed in the then India. Rasa and acting were regarded as much popular in the society. So, slowly Lokanatya became popular.

India is one of the selected few countries, which can boast of a home-grown and native drama and theatrical tradition, staying wholly unemotional towards any kind of foreign influence. The earliest extant stage piece, The Little Clay Cart, is very much attributed to Indian drama - The Little Clay Cart sovereign named Sudraka. The play is in all probability dated sometime before 400 A.D. This is one of the few oriental dramas treating, in part at least, of middle-class lives and everyday living. The production of drama in India was almost absolutely an involvement of the elite, who arranged for such festivities in honour of an enthronement, a lunar holiday, a royal marriage, or the birth of a royal successor. The actor`s profession was always looked at with deference and there was no objection to women being utilised and acting on the stage. In many ways, however, Indian drama unwraps the social philosophy upon which the caste system is based, as well as a profound religious feeling. Great importance is attached to the idea of self-sacrifice as the highest form of self-realisation.

This above mentioned context of drama and playacting in India brings one another major pivot in the evolvement of theatre in India. The history of Indian drama is known to go back to the Vedic Period during the Classical period, precisely with the enactment of Rig Veda. However, from those times, the scenario in Indian drama has remained witness to a lot of ups and downs. The Natya Shastra by Bharata or the great epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata and their times, had a lot of scholars that have taken the concept of drama in India to the next level. Everything that has been noted above with regards to drama, dramatic traditions, its style and panache, have since ancient times, been pivoting around Hinduism and its religious concepts and precepts. It can also be witnessed that every writer, be it in whichever background or genre, did belong to the Hindu religion, that founding religious mode, which later had paved way for various religious diversities in India. As such origin of Hindu drama in India comes under crucial and decisive limelight and scrutinisation, when present-day and later dramatic and theatrical performances are concerned.

While on stage and very much into the zeal of performing a play, drama in India as well as abroad follow some key and essential elements of dramatic enactment. A dramatic performing arts in India comprise the elements of character, plot, theme, dialogue, convention, genre, audience, stagecraft, design, conversions and various others. These elements are regarded much significant for the very existence of a drama.