YATRA-Writings from The Indian Subcontinent -General Editor: Alok Bhalla

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While there has always been,and continues to be, a lot of theatre activity in various parts of India, the general impression,even amongst the well-informed, is that our theatre traditions have never been as imaginatively vibrant and as boldly innovative as some of our
other art forms have been in the last
hundred years. Some of the reasons
for our general ignorance of the
variety and energy that characterizes
theatre in India are that it has yet to
attract either the patronage art has
or the critical attention literature has
or the money the cinema has. The
popular media rarely covers the
theatre with the awe with which it
writes about celebrity novelists or
film stars, and serious students can’t
generally be persuaded to consider
the theatre while discussing ques-
tions of form and style, or the history
of social change. There are hardly any
journals exclusively concerned with
the aesthetics or the semiotics of the
theatre in India; there are no easily
available sources of information; no
comprehensive encyclopaedias, no
well-preserved archives. Yet, theatre
has been a flourishing part of our lives
and carries on with its mission to inform and amuse audiences.We decided to bring out a special
issue of Yatra on contemporary Marathi theatre in order to commemorate the fact that theatre in Maharashtra has completed a hundred years. The plays published here are representative examples of the kind of new work being written and performed in Marathi. They have been translated into English for the
first time.Till the last decade of the 19th century there was hardly any theatre, in
the modern sense of the word, in Maharashtra (folk forms have a
vitality and an importance that have
yet to be fully recognized). While
there were very few plays written in
Marathi in first half of the 19th cen-
tury (Sita Swayamvar, by Vishnudas
Bhave, written in 1843, was the first
Marathi play), approximately ten
plays were translated from Sanskrit
into Marathi. Between 1864 and 1898,
thirty plays were translated into Marathi and performed (Shakespeare and Goldsmith were the favourite English playwrights), and a few historical and mythological plays were written in Marathi (Meadows Taylor’s Tippu Sultan was adapted for the theatre quite a few times.)Soon after, however, there was a radical change in the social and political climate, and Nationalist intellectuals like Bal GangadharTilak,N.C.kelkar,V.D.Savark
ar,V.V.Khare,S.M. Paranjpe, Krishnaji
Prabhakar Khadilka4 and Gangadhar Rao
Deshpande realized that the theatre
could be used for political ends.

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