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INDIAN NATIONAL THEATRE
TELEPHONE: 22650361, TELEFAX: 22658508
FOUNDED ON : 5th MAY, 1944
Year 1942! – INDIA was on the threshold of Freedom. Air was ripe and reverberating with the call of the National leaders for youth-participation in the ‘Quit India’ Movement of Mahatma Gandhi. The energetic student world of the country unswervingly and whole-heartedly took active interest and got involved in the National struggle for Independence of India with a vision to break the fetters of 150 years of slavery under the British Rule in our motherland, India. Enthusiasm knew no bounds and prisons were jam-packed to the brim by one and all – men and women, young and old alike.
National leaders anticipated Independence of India round the corner and began forming National policies for a future Free India – Economic, Agricultural, Educational, Political, Industrial, Commercial, Scientific policies, etc. when the reigns of the Government would pass in their hands from their British Counterparts while leaving the shores of the Country.
The Country needed a Cultural Policy too for future India. The most venerate student-leader of the then Bombay city, Shri Rohit Dave who was also in prison, thought of a National Cultural Policy for the Nation seriously, by which the Nation engulfed by multifarious cultures fusing with one another and practiced by different sects and religious communities of the country could participate with unanimous accord. While still in prison, he envisaged and laid down the Rules and Regulations of the “Indian National Theatre”, keeping in mind the participation not only of the artistes as a class, but the Common man of India who already breathes the background of the cultures of this vast immense country imbibed deeply in his memory of traditions, and who wants to belong to a fraternity. Time was auspicious. India was in the throes of her Re-birth as a Free Country. “INDIAN NATIONAL THEATRE” was officially born on 5th May, 1944 in Bombay. A new awareness of national identity inspired its founders – some of whom are still actively associated with it – to ride the wave of post-independence ethos and express in newly realised cultural aspirations through the theatre. Smt. Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay was elected INT’s 1st President and Shri Rohit Dave became the Vice-President. Under their able and upright leadership ‘INT’ took leaps and bounds, beyond imagination, in the cultural firmament. Dedicated band of workers and artistes devoted whole-heartedly with earnestness, self-lessness, and honesty of purpose in the cause of Indian National Theatre thus established and with sincerity beyond blemish, worked for its uplift as a prime cultural organisation of the country. Shri Damu Jhaveri gave his yeomen services as Hon. General Secretary for almost 58 years of INT’s existence till today, when he breathed his last in March, 2002. The young patriots of bye gone era are still working hard to consolidate this Institution on an organisational and ideological platform.
Founded in the year 1944 in the city of Bombay, the Indian National Theatre is today one of the foremost pioneer theatre organisations in India. Though India is rich in its dramatic traditions, her artistic genius has to be nurtured and adapted to suit modern concepts, conditions and trends, and at the same time new standards and traditions set up through new media of expression and modern techniques. The early years of this renaissance were beset with innumerable difficulties. Though artistic talent was abundant, few could be persuaded to come forward and participate in dramatic activities, owing to the prevalence of irrational social prejudices and the stigma attached to this important aspect of the cultural life of a nation. Lack of technical skill and of modern equipment, paucity of good theatre and halls, high rentals and heavy production costs were some of the other obstacles that stood in the way of the development of a sound theatre movement. But these and other obstacles have not hampered the zeal and enthusiasm of the devoted band of artistes and workers who formed the INT. Instead they have spurred them to greater and more determined action and thanks to their pioneering efforts, the INT has built up, starting almost from scratch, one of the best organized theatre institutions in India, with its wide and varied scope of activities in almost all spheres of theatre arts: dance, music, drama, ballet, dance-drama, pantomime; play-reading, poetry-recital, folk-dance festival, competitions and even schools for music and dancing.
The INDIAN NATIONAL THEATRE (INT) is an amateur organization dedicated to the development of furtherance of a healthy and dynamic theatre movement in India. It is a symbol of the great cultural renaissance that India has witnessed during the post-freedom era which has given a new meaning and content to the hopes and aspirations of a suppressed nation yearning for freedom and self-expression. The epic freedom battle with all its trials and tribulations and its message of non-violence gave a sense of direction to the dramatic genius of the people and provided a befitting backdrop to their cultural expression. It was an unfailing source of inspiration to Indian artistes in their endeavor to recapture their rich cultural heritage to create newer and greater art-forms for the coming generations.
The INT has a number of stage productions to its credit, but its special contribution to the theatre movement in India has been in the field of ballet and dance-drama. The production and presentation of spectacular ballets like ‘Discovery of India’, ‘Rhythm of Culture’, ‘Usha’, ‘Raj Nartaki’, ‘Dekh Teri Bambai’ and ‘Krishna Leela’ are some of the landmarks in the short yet phenomenal history of the organization. In early years INT very successfully produced Dance Dramas like “Bhookh”, Mirabai”, Narsinyo”, “Amrapali”, etc. under the able direction of Shri Yogendra Desai and litting music given by Shri Avinash Vyas in Gujarati language.
INT had made formidable and admirable research to find out traditional groups of artistes of Kutch and Saurashtra now residing in Bombay city and engaged in their own vocation now or in different professions like Prajapatis (poetters), Sorthi Ghedias (vegetable vendors), Daria Chorus (sea faring Kharwas), Harijans Women’s Institute (Stree Mandals), school and college cultural groups – all participated in these 15 days continuous festival of “GARBA RAAS” at Rangabhavan open ground and other places in Bombay. It was a novel experience in organisation and participation of artistes and audience in close proximity round central stage erected for the performances. Trophies were donated by such activity-lovers of Bombay and were given to the winners in different categories of these competitions.
INT sent observers for continuous 3 to 4 years to the Republic Day Function of the Government on January 26 every year at New Delhi where artistes, dancers, musicians and singers of performing folk arts from the 14 States of the Indian Sub-Continent participated. After a thorough study, INT invited the winners of 12 artistes troupes from different States from these festivals to come to the “All India Folk Dance Festival” held by INT at the Braborne Stadium in the year 1952. It was a grand success and a treat to the eyes to see the artistes clad in their colourful costumes of different States. Bombay audience was aghast with exhilaration to witness such a grand galaxy of troupes.
The ‘Discovery of India’, adapted from Prime Minister Nehru’s famous book of the same name was staged before the Asian Relations Conference at New Delhi in April 1947. The impact of the production and the impression that it created on the audience can best be summarised in Nehru’s (the author’s) own words, after he along with the delegates had witnessed the performance: “I think this show is better than the book itself and it has enhanced the beauty of the book”. ‘The Rhythm of Culture’, another outstanding production by the INT ballet unit presents the glorious saga of the cultural history of India through the ages and seeks to portray the birth and development of Indian music, dance, drama, poetry and philosophy in short, every cultural influence that has moulded the life of the people. Our modern ballet “Dekh Teri Bambai” giving an insight into the life of Bombay city in a span of 24 hours routine life. INT participated along with this ballet to Paris at “Theatre De Nationalle” Festival in 1959.
The INT has been equally active in the field of dramatic productions. It has set up a number of drama units in English and various Indian languages like, Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Kannada, etc. Through these linguistic units, the INT has sought to tap the best dramatic talent and resources in the country and provide them with regular outlet and opportunities for developing their talent and for staging of plays in each language. The plays produced by the Drama Section has been widely appreciated for the high standard of production. The Gujarati Unit has by far been the most prolific and most regular unit of all. “Rangilo Rajja” a rollicking social comedy staged by Gujarati Unit had an epoch making 101 nights run in those days. Not a single drama had done it before nor any had done it since during those yearly years. More than a hundred nights run was unusual and unique in Indian amateur Theatre. Another drama titled “Mazam Raat” had the distinction to be selected for the National Drama Festival, Delhi where it won a prize in its language group. The Unit had staged an experimental problem play called “Kadam Milake Chalo”, a satire on the language problem of the Bombay State. This production also attained a great success and secured the best Gujarati Play Prize in the Bombay State Drama Competition 1958. “Santu Rangili” and “Moti Verana Chokman” were too more feathers in INT’s cap.
The Marathi Unit of INT produced many prestigious productions – some of which includes “Tee Phoolarani” adapted and directed by Late P. L. Deshpande and acted by Satish Dubhashi and Bhakti Barve performing more than 750 nights, “Kanyadaan” written by Vijay Tendulkar, directed by Sadashiv Amrapurkar was another landmark for INT. The caste of the play were Dr. Shreeram Lagoo, Sadashiv Amrapurkar, Suhas Joshi performing more than 200 nights, “Chhinna” written by Waman Tawde and directed by Sadashiv Amrapurkar, with the caste of the play being Sadashiv Amrapurkar, Ashalata Wabgaonkar and first time on the stage was the famous late Smita Patil.
In its efforts to popularise dramatic art-forms and to bring entertainment to the people, the INT had developed a mobile stage- a stage on wheels, formed by two motor trucks parked side by side. The INT mobile unit had produced and staged successfully two purposeful ballets – “Story of India” and “By 1951”- which were played before large audiences in the open at convenient spots in different parts of the city of Bombay.
Prime Minister Nehru inaugurated the INT Children’s Section, which is dedicated to building a Children’s theatre and to develop the talents of child artistes, as well as provide healthy entertainment to children through suitable plays and stage productions. This unit produced and presented pantomime entitled “Bavlo” based on the famous fairy tale “Pinnochio”. In December, 1958 it produced two more plays called “Nave Gokul” and “Andheri Nagaritla Kantala Din”. Since then the Children’s Theatre Unit, produced 11 children’s dramas in Gujarati languages under the able direction by Smt. Vanlata Mehta and under Shri Gautam Joshi’s direction. Children’s Theatre Academy was also successfully and practical training in the study of theatre arts and crafts and awarded diplomas to successful candidates at the end of the course.
INT has a publication section and a beginning has been made in the publication of plays, treatises and books and monograms on dance, drama and music.
One of the major contributions of the INT to the theatre movement in India is its Theatre Service Department. This section has a remarkable collection of costumes, ornaments, sets and equipment which can meet the requirements of a wide variety of productions. These are made available to various groups in the city at very nominal charges. The INT theatre service also includes expert guidance and stage craft. Hundreds of organisations, mostly amateur groups, have availed themselves of these facilities during the last twelve years of its existence.
INT has sponsored many more prominent dramatic and dance companies and individual artistes visiting Bombay from other parts of India and abroad. With it’s vast organisation and contacts INT sponsors shows of foreign theatrical companies and individual artistes throughout India. INT has been the first to realise the importance of a continuous cultural inter course.
A more prominent feature of the INT’s activity was the Theatre Club. Poets, playwrights and traditional story-tellers read their works to the members of the Club at fairly regular intervals. The audience consists of noteworthy theatre enthusiasts and literatures. The Theatre Club had also organised several seminars on literary subjects such as ‘Gazal’ form of Gujarati poetry. The various aspects of the development of one-act plays as also of contemporary Gujarati poetry were analysed in depth in two symposia organised by the INT.
The Theatre Club honoured eminent men of theatre such as Shri C. C. Mehta, doyan of the modern Gujarati Theatre on his 75th Birthday in 1976, and also the internationally famous Bengali actor-director Shri Shombhu Mitra on the occasion of his receiving the Magsaysay Award.
INT staged Mushairas of Gujarati Gazal recitation functions by well-known Gazalkars of Gujarat for a long period of continuous 25 years on 14th August evening every year on the eve of our Independence Day. After a short break, INT has again continued this activity since last seven years. Tremendous enthusiasm is visible during these Mushairas by the receptive audiences. From the interests of the kind donations received by INT for the purpose, cash reward of Rs. 25,000/- is given as “KALAPI AWARD” to a senior Gazalkar and Rs. 10,000/- as “SHAYDA AWARD” to a junior Gazalkar every year, both of whom are approved by a committee of 3 learned judges, after scrutinizing their Gazals.
One of the major yearly event of INT is the Pravin Joshi Memorial One Act Drama Competition in which different colleges of the city of Mumbai participate. The function bears a festival outlook and it is a thrilling experience to witness overwhelming enthusiasm and hard work of the college students, and professors of various colleges. Trophies, cash prizes and certificates are awarded for Best Script, Best Playwright, Best Actor and Actress (in all 3 categories of 1st, 2nd & 3rd Best) etc.
One of the most important yearly event of INT is Gujarati One-Act Drama Competition covering colleges from the entire State of Gujarat, jointly sponsored by INT and the renowned Gujarati Daily Newspaper “Gujarat Samachar”. The finals of the competition is held at Ahmedabad in an awe-inspiring function where exuberance of joy and enthusiasm is witnessed both by the State college students and the appreciative Ahmedabad audience. The high standard of choosing the scripts of the plays, acting, direction and involvement of both participating students and their Institutions is noteworthy and deserves cudos.
INT has always actively cooperated with other organisations working in the field and extended to them its whole-hearted support. It took the lead in organizing and establishing the Theatre Centre (Bombay) in which it still shoulders major responsibilities. The INT is affiliated to the Theatre Centre (India) and through this national body to the UNESCO’S International Theatre Institute, Paris. INT is also a member of the International Folk Arts Association, Austria. It is a member of Marathi Natya Parishad as well as Marathi Natya Nirmata Sangh as also Gujarati Producers’ Guild.
INT RESEARCH CENTRE FOR THE PERFORMING FOLK ARTS
P U R P O S E
Indian National Theatre has been one of the premiere theatre institutions of India, from the year 1944 onwards. The fundamental aim of I.N.T. is not only to function as a performing unit, but also, in so far as is possible, encourage and nurture the performing arts that are uniquely Indian in character.
I.N.T. has undertaken and established a Research Centre for the Performing Folk Arts, in order to further fulfil the basic aim of the Institution.
There are several reasons which make the establishment of such a centre imperative at this juncture.
The various folk art forms of India, have developed from the antiquities of the past centuries. They reflect, what may be called, the genuine (Indian) theatre of the people of this country, especially with reference to the rural and small town communities.
Unfortunately, these art forms are unknown and lost to the urban public. Theatre activities in the cities have, in the main, become imitations of trends in the theatre of the West and hybrid forms of cinema.
It has therefore become necessary that folk arts be recognised for their inherent liveliness and charm, and be appreciated by larger audiences throughout the country. What is more important, is that contemporary theatre artistes should be made conversant with the folk art forms so that they are inspired by the different forms of folk theatre. Unless these genuine, indigenous, traditions of Indian Folk Theatre are revitalised and contemporary Indian Theatre begins to adapt them for contemporary presentations, our theatre presentations will not acquire the depth and universality which is essential to make worthwhile contribution to the world theatre in general.
The survival of the folk artistes and folk theatre has become difficult in present times. In the past, these art forms received royal patronage or economic aid from local landlords. Today, although these art forms are very popular in the rural areas, the economic conditions of the folk artistes has been rapidly deteriorating.
Consequently, several artistes belonging to the folk art groups have migrated to the cities for better employment. There is in fact, a danger of many of the groups becoming totally extinct, if immediate aid is not rendered to them.
Not much systematic research work has been done, on the various folk art forms of India, until now. Although some of the folk groups have been studied, comprehensive study of all the folk groups within a particular region has not, as yet been undertaken. Such a project would have great dimensions, because even within a definite region of India, there are great variations in the different folk art groups. If research regarding the various folk art groups is further delayed, then they may become totally extinct and lost to the future.
Even today, very few of the traditional artistes are alive, and most of them are aged. Their knowledge and experiences are worthy of study, for the theatre world in general.
For these reasons, Indian National Theatre has undertaken and founded Research Centre for the Performing Folk Arts. No one centre can do justice to the folk art forms of the whole country. Hence, I.N.T. ha initially chosen for its field of study the regions of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa and Rajasthan.
The Institution was inaugurated in 1978. It gives intensive training to young college students and artistes in the various aspects of theatre and a theatre workshop is also attached to the Institute.
INT also started its Research Centre during the same period to study the folk and tribal art forms in the two States of Maharashtra and Gujarat. Through this Research Centre INT has organised many festivals in both States in Folk and Tribal Arts as also produced research-oriented productions in both the languages of Marathi and Gujarati.
The goodwill generated by INT’s cooperative efforts and its impressive record of work have earned for it the recognition of the State as well as the Central Governments. It receives grants-in-aid from both the Governments. As one of the premiere theatre Organisations in the State, the INT is frequently called upon by Government to arrange cultural programmes for visiting foreign dignitaries and Stage guests, and to undertake stage-management for the shows of visiting foreign cultural delegations.
Obviously such a wide variety of theatre activity demands a band of technically trained and dedicated workers. It has been INT’s good fortune that quite a few of its artistes, stage directors, technical directors and other in-charge of various departments have grown with the Institution and are today well equipped for meeting the varied requirements of the most challenging stage productions. To this band of devoted artistes and technicians have now been added technically trained research scholars, directors, fieldworkers, research workers and teachers – altogether an impressive array of self-equipped people capable of tackling the demands of growing theatre movement.
The INT’s biggest dream and ambition is to build a cultural centre which will also serve as a centre for dramatic experiments and research and help to build a truly dynamic theatre movement in India. INT aims to construct a building which will house a well equipped theatre, a experimental theatre, a technical academy with workshop, library, museum, rehearsal halls, music room, a hostel for visiting artistes and administrative offices. For this the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai has allotted a Plot of Land at Babulnath where INT will build it’s mentioned Complex to house all the activities mentioned above in association with House of Birlas. As an outstanding Organisation in the Indian amateur theatre world, the INT faces the future with confidence and hopes that in the years to come its activities will increase and its ambitious programme fulfilled towards better and brighter entertainment.
Government of Gujarat has also allotted us a Plot of Land in Rajkot to construct the Research Complex to house our activities of Gujarat Region and now have already developed the infrastructure to promote and carry on the work of building theatre centers. We look forward to generous donors to come forward to help us finish our cherished dream of the Project at Rajkot, to continue Research in Performing Folk Arts of Gujarat.