For thousands of years, theatre has served as a platform to challenge societal norms, raise awareness, and provoke critical thinking. From the origins of theatre in 5th century Greece to contemporary theatre, the practice has undergone several evolutions but one thing has remained constant — theatre’s role as a powerful tool for social change.
In social theatre, the stage becomes a miniature world reflecting the gritty truths of the real world. It artfully portrays uncomfortable societal truths that we often turn a blind eye to even though it is all around us in our everyday lives. In India, there are numerous works that highlight the transformative potential of theatre in addressing pressing social issues. A notable example of a play addressing the discrimination women face in Indian society is Nagamandala by Girish Karnad, which explores themes of gender inequality and societal restrictions on women. By depicting the struggles of a young woman trapped in a loveless marriage, the play challenges traditional gender roles and advocates for women's empowerment.
Speaking of social theatre and theatrical productions shedding light on the challenges, struggles, and aspirations of women in Indian society, there is an upcoming evocative, sensitive and powerful three-day theatre festival called Natya Rang Utsav, organized by Rama Theatre Natya Vidya Sansthan (RATNAV). The event offers a unique opportunity for theatre enthusiasts to engage with thought-provoking plays that critically examine not only the challenges faced by women in contemporary society but also fearlessly confront pressing societal issues revolving around caste and religion.
Renowned theatre artist Rama Pandey has written, directed, and performed two of the three plays that will be showcased at the festival. She has won many national and international awards for her contributions to theatre and television. After a prolific career as a journalist and playwright with organizations such as BBC Hindi, CBC Canada, Voice of America, and Radio Netherland TV Centre Holland, she founded RATNAV and Montage Films to showcase Indian traditions with her audience.
The first play, Yam Putra, written by acclaimed writer Vikas Kumar Jha, explores the theme of discrimination surrounding a boy from the marginalized Mahapatra community who is adopted by a Hindu Brahmin family. This compelling narrative delves into the profound societal prejudices experienced by the Mahapatra community in India, highlighting the need for social justice and equality.
Shaista, the second play, tells the story of a young girl's defiance against the practice of selling young Muslim girls into marriage in Hyderabad and Shekhwati. Through this captivating narrative, the play emphasizes women's empowerment, the transformative potential of digital technology, and the fundamental rights of every individual, as bestowed by our Constitution.
The final play, Sultana, portrays the courage and social reforms within the color-dying community of Rajasthan. It serves as a poignant and powerful depiction of a young woman's struggle for freedom and justice in the face of oppressive societal norms. Sultana not only tells the story of one woman's personal journey but also reflects broader societal issues such as gender inequality, social pressures, and the ongoing struggles for justice and freedom.
Additionally, the festival will honor Padma Shri award winner Prof. Ashok Chakrdhar with the prestigious Aajeevan Rang Seva Puraskar for his lifelong contributions to the world of theatre. Using the potent medium of theatre, Natya Rang Utsav will serve as a platform for promoting gender-conscious narratives and fostering social awareness and change.
Natya Rang Utsav
Date: 5th October - 7th October 2023
Time: 6:30 PM
Venue: The Shri Ram Centre, Mandi House, New Delhi