Saturday, September 3, 2011

Magical narratives

The four life histories that form the core of this book throw up new information about a world whose contours we have forgotten.

Stages of Life
Indian Theatre Autobiographies
Kathryn Hansen
Permanent Black
 Rs 750; Pp 392
ISBN 81-7824-311-3
Around the middle of the 19th century, Indian theatre suddenly went through a violent transformation; until then, plays were staged in the open air with little scenery, audiences did not have to pay for watching the performance, and the narratives presented were mostly from a stock of folk-tales or myths the audience was already familiar with.

This whole system got swept aside in the 1850s when there appeared, in the heart of Bombay, a theatre with a proscenium stage that, with the use of special stage lighting, music, fanciful costumes and a new aggressive style of acting, could purvey a magical world of fantastic narratives wrapped in stunning stage scenery. Theatre became a world capable of breaking down gender, class and caste barriers and immersing the heterogeneous Indian audience into a single dream world.

Full report here Hindu

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