Theater is one of the most vibrant and interactive forms of storytelling. For generations, people have watched, learnt and been entertained through theater. India has had a rich heritage of playwrights and theater veterans, presenting endless stories, performed in every conceivable place – from the smallest chaupals of villages, to the large auditoriums of metropolitan cities, to nooks and crannies of small towns and hamlets. On World Theater Day, here is a list of 5 most performed Indian plays by Indian playwrights, that make it to my all-time favorites.
Girish Karnard’s first play, written in 1960, won the Mysore State Award in 1962. Yayati was one of the ancestors of the Pandavas. The play is based on an episode in the Mahabharata, where Yayati is given the curse of premature old age by his father-in-law, Shukracharya, father of Devayani, who is incensed by Yayati’s infidelity. The play has been performed countless times on stages India and abroad.
Another gem from Karnad, Tughlaq explores the psyche of the 14th-century Sultan of Delhi, Muhammad bin Tughluq and his idealist philosophies and resulting disillusionment, an allegory on the Nehruvian era . What makes this play different is multiple perspectives offered, underlining how Tughlaq’s genius vision turned into chaos and bitterness among the people of his kingdom.
3. Taj Mahal ka Tender by Ajay Shukla
A hilarious take on the red-tapism and ‘the sad state of officialdom’, Tajmahal Ka Tender is Shahjahan’s journey of the constructing of Taj Mahal in today’s day and age. Satire has never been presented better, and while the audiences gasp for breath amidst laughter, one cannot ignore the stark nakedness of corruption and bureaucracy that this play lays bare.
A mock trial staged to make a novice understand court procedures turns into an accusatory game. The mock trial where school teacher Benare, is ‘charged’ with infanticide and having an extra-marital affair with a professor, exposes hypocrisy in a deeply patriarchal society. The play was also turned into a Marathi film, which marked the debut of Amrish Puri and Amol Palekar.
A play about every educated middle class urban dweller, Ebong Indrajit captures existential crisis, the ‘loneliness of post-Independence urban youth’ with dismaying accuracy. The play explores the discontent and frustration that creative minds suffer, pitting them against those who opt for contentment and stability.
Note: This list is, in no way, representative of the top plays by Indian playwrights. It is a personal listing by writer, and does not represent Tell-A-Tale views. Do leave your favorites in the comments below.