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Theatres of Independence

Drama, Theory, and Urban Performance in India since 1947

Aparna Bhargava Dharwadker

Publication Year: 2005

Theatres of Independence is the first comprehensive study of drama, theatre, and urban performance in post-independence India. Combining theatre history with theoretical analysis and literary interpretation, Aparna Dharwadker examines the unprecedented conditions for writing and performance that the experience of new nationhood created in a dozen major Indian languages and offers detailed discussions of the major plays, playwrights, directors, dramatic genres, and theories of drama that have made the contemporary Indian stage a vital part of postcolonial and world theatre.The first part of Dharwadker's study deals with the new dramatic canon that emerged after 1950 and the variety of ways in which plays are written, produced, translated, circulated, and received in a multi-lingual national culture. The second part traces the formation of significant postcolonial dramatic genres from their origins in myth, history, folk narrative, sociopolitical experience, and the intertextual connections between Indian, European, British, and American drama. The book's ten appendixes collect extensive documentation of the work of leading playwrights and directors, as well as a record of the contemporary multilingual performance histories of major Indian, Western, and non-Western plays from all periods and genres. Treating drama and theatre as strategically interrelated activities, the study makes post-independence Indian theatre visible as a multifaceted critical subject to scholars of modern drama, comparative theatre, theatre history, and the new national and postcolonial literatures.

Published by: University of Iowa Press

Series: Studies Theatre Hist & Culture


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiii

The idea for this book took shape in 1996 and 1997, following a period during which my postdoctoral work in Restoration and early eighteenthcentury British theatre made way rather unexpectedly for several projects in contemporary Indian and postcolonial theatre. I would crst like to thank the colleagues whose invitations to speak and write about the...

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Author's Note

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pp. xv-xvii

It is not possible to date Indian plays of the post-independence period consistently on the exclusive basis of either publication or first performance. Because of the unpredictable conditions that prevail in a largely noncommercial theatre culture, publication in the original Indian language of composition usually precedes the performance of a play, sometimes...


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pp. xix

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1. Postcolonial Frames and the Subject of Modern Indian Theatre

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pp. 1-18

Since the middle of the twentieth century, the formal end of European colonialism in various parts of the globe has created unusually powerful historical instances of the linkage between political chronology and literary periodization. For numerous former colonies in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean, the achievement of political autonomy and modern...

Part I: The Field of Indian Theatre after Independence

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pp. 19

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2. The Formation of a New "National Canon"

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pp. 21-53

The urban theatre that has emerged in India since independence in 1947 has no parallel in the earlier cultural formations of the subcontinent, and, like the literature (fiction, poetry, and nonfiction) produced over the same period, it constitutes a “new national” tradition. This conjunction between the nation and its cultural forms, intrinsic to modern...

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3. Authorship, Textuality, and Multilingualism

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pp. 54-84

The theatre that has come into existence since independence in India is a “postcolonial” cultural formation shaped by historically new conditions of writing, performance, and reception. The decisive difference between this celd and earlier types of urban production is not the exclusion of “alien” inbuences but the self-conscious redefinition of theatre as a formally...

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4. Production and Reception

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pp. 85-126

Euro-American theatre history and criticism invariably describe “the rise of the director” as a development that is surprisingly recent in relation to the long history of the stage but that has exerted a decisive influence on the formation of a complex modern theatre. In the midnineteenth century, such figures as Saxe-Meiningen and Charles Kean...

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5. Orientalism, Cultural Nationalism, and the Erasure of the Present

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pp. 127-161

In the introduction to a collection of essays relating orientalism speficcally to postcolonial South Asia, Carol Breckenridge and Peter van der Veer argue that the discursive formations of orientalism are inescapable in the Indian subcontinent and the study thereof, in large part because “critiques of colonialism have not really led to a rebection on the evolution...

Part II: Genres in Context: Theory, Play, and Performance

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pp. 163

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6. Myth, Ambivalence, and Evil

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pp. 165-217

The first signiccant thematic formation to appear in Indian theatre after independence consists of a succession of major plays that invoke the nation’s ancient, premodern, and precolonial past through the two principal modes of retrospective representation—myth and history. In this usage, the term “myth” designates cctional narratives involving divine...

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7. The Ironic History of the Nation

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pp. 218-267

Commenting on the points of contact between two dominant late twentieth-century “posts,” Linda Hutcheon observes that postmodernism and postcolonialism are alike in undertaking a “dialogue” with history: diverging from modernism’s ahistorical retreat from temporality, the postmodern “questions, rather than confirns, the process of History . . . [and]...

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8. Realism and the Edifice of Home

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pp. 268-309

The principal antithesis to the intertexture of myth and history in postindependence Indian theatre (discussed in the preceding two chapters) appears in several interlinked groups of plays that portray the historical present rather than a received or imagined past and that possess a range of common features without displaying the closer “family resemblances”...

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9. Alternative Stages: Antirealism, Gender, and Contemporary “Folk” Theatre

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pp. 310-351

In the theoretical and polemical discourses that have elaborated contemporary Indian theatre’s “encounter with tradition” since the 1960s, the notion of “tradition” usually encapsulates the full range of indigenous modes of drama, theatre, and performance that emerged diachronically over two millennia but have assumed a synchronous existence in the present...

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10. Intertexts and Countertexts

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pp. 352-387

One of the most inbuential and controversial recent debates in postcolonial studies has centered on the relations of dependency and opposition between postcolonial writing and dominant Western forms of textuality. The generalized form of this argument, presented by Ashcroft...


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pp. 389-437


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pp. 439-448


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pp. 449-461


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pp. 463-478

E-ISBN-13: 9781587296420
E-ISBN-10: 158729642X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780877459613
Print-ISBN-10: 0877459614

Page Count: 504
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: Studies Theatre Hist & Culture