The origin of Indian theatre can be traced back to the time when Alexander the Great invaded the subcontinent. More than 5,000 years later, we have seen three different phases of theatre, the addition of countless theatre forms, and even more playwrights and stage actors. While Bharata Muni is credited with creating Natya Shastra, the holy grail of Indian theatre, there have been a few gems who have time and again altered the history, and consequently the present, of Indian theatre.
Here’s a list of the great dramatists who have contributed in more ways than one and frankly, revolutionized Indian theatre.
Vijaya Mehta: Vijaya Mehta is one of the most instrumental and influential figures in Marathi experimental theatre. She not only introduced Bertold Brecht, adapted The Caucasian Chalk Circle (Ajab Nyay Vartulacha) but also founded Rangayan with Vijay Tendulkar. She has the Sangeet Natak Academi Award (1975) to her credit.
Ebrahim Alkazi: If Vijaya Mehta revolutionized Marathi theatre, Ebrahim Alkazi changed the face of Hindi theatre. His magnificent vision and meticulous research before staging any play have contributed to some major advancements in scenography. Alkazi has not only trained Om Puri and Naseeruddin Shah but also directed substantial plays like Girish Karnad’s Tughlaq and Dharamvir Bharati’s Andha Yug.
Satyadev Dubey: This is yet another dramatist who’s considered a benchmark for aspiring thespians. Satayadev Dubey has been instrumental in the forwarding of Mumbai’s theatre industry in the 60s and 70s. A winner of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1971) and Padma Bhushan (2011), this theatre genius discovered Dharamvir Bharati’s Andha Yug and Badal Sircar’s Evam Indrajit, both of which are milestone plays in Indian theatre history.
Badal Sircar: The man behind Third Theatre, Aanganmanch performances and anti-nationalist street plays, Badal Sircar is considered a pioneer of Indian theatre. Though he started out with comedies, his Evam Indrajit focused on the angst of Indian youth in the post-Independence era and is a masterpiece.