Contemporary Indian Drama

Home/ Contemporary Indian Drama
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Discipline CoreSUS1EN2444

Semester and Year Offered:3rd Semester

Course Coordinator and Team: Vikram Singh Thakur

Email of course coordinator:vikram[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: Interest in drama and theatre

Course Objectives/Description:

The course is designed to introduce students to various issues involved in contemporary Indian drama. Along with the study of plays the students will also be introduced to various dramatic traditions of India in which these plays are located. This will help students in contextualizing contemporary Indian drama and appreciate it in a nuanced and critical manner. Students will also be encouraged to focus on dramatic traditions other than the ones covered in the course in the form of presentations. Plays written in various Indian languages by dramatists like Dharamvir Bharti, Habib Tanvir, Mohan Rakesh, ChandrashekharKambar, Vijay Tendulkar, Girish Karnad, UtpalDutt, BadalSircar, Mahesh Elkunchwar, Mahesh Dattani, ManjulaPadmanabhan and Kusum Kumar will be included.

Course Outcomes:

On successful completion of this course students will be able to:

Identify main dramatic traditions in India

  • Identify major playwrights of contemporary Indian theatre
  • Gain insight into the history of Indian theatre since Independence
  • Analyse plays in a critical and nuanced manner
  • Able to engage with drama creatively and critically
  • Gain confidence in public speaking as the course involves dramatic reading of a few texts
  • Work as a team since the presentations have been imagined as a group activity
  • Carry out research in the field of drama and theatre
  • Will promote self-learning as students will have to choose from texts and make presentations.


Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

The course will introduce students to: realism in post-Independence drama, appropriation of folk and traditional idioms in urban drama, politics of caste and gender, revisiting history and mythology and political drama. Besides studying these plays students will also be shown video recordings of as many plays as possible to help them differentiate between drama and other genres of literature and develop a nuanced understanding of the styles and themes of various plays. Dramatic reading of at least one/two plays will be done in class to give them hands on experience of reading a play script. Students will also be encouraged to focus on dramatic traditions and linguistic sectors other than the ones covered in the course in the form of presentations which will be part of their continuous assessment.

The following plays will be taken up for detailed study in class:


This module introduces students to Indian drama and theatre – both ancient and modern. This will largely survey a brief history of drama in India covering classical Sanskrit drama, folk theatres, colonial theatres in India including the popular Parsi theatre and post-Independence theatre in India. The module features a documentary film Theatre of India by the well-known theatre director Jabbar Patel.


This module would introduce students to realism in Indian drama as employed by various post-colonial playwrights. The module will take up detailed analysis of Vijay Tendulkar’s Shantata! Court ChaluAhe(Silence! The Court is in Session).


An important component of post-Independence Indian theatre is the appropriation of the folk and traditional in urban dramas. The module will take up detailed analysis of Habib Tanvir’sCharandasChor (Charandas the Thief).


History and mythology have fascinated post-Independence Indian playwrights. The plays written by Girish Karnad, Indira Parthasarthy, Dharamvir Bharti, et al have used history and mythology to interpret the contemporary realities of their times. The module will look at the relationship between history/mythology with contemporary drama and take up Karnad’sTughlaq for detailed analysis.


Identity has been crucial to contemporary Indian playwrights. Whether it is sexual, political, religious or social Indian dramatists have dealt with such identity issues in their dramas. The module will specifically engage with Kusum Kumar’s SunoShefali (Listen Shefali) a play exploring the correlation between gender and caste in contemporary India.


Political theatre has always challenged the status quo. The module will explore the connection between the politics and theatre further and take up a detailed analysis of UtpalDutt’sMahavidroha (The Great Rebellion 1857).

Reading List:

  • Dutt, Utpal. “Mahavidroh” (“The Great Rebellion 1857,” 1986 ). Three Plays:
  • Hunting the Sun, the Great Rebellion, Nightmare City. Calcutta:
  • Seagull Books, 2009.
  • Karnad, Girish. “Tughlaq”. Three Plays. Trans. Girish Karnad. New Delhi:
  • Oxford University Press, 1994.
  • Kumar, Kusum. SunoShefali (Listen Shefali, 1978). Staging Resistance: Plays by
  • Women in Translation. Ed. Tutun Mukherjee. New Delhi: OUP, 2005.
  • Tanvir, Habib. CharandasChor(Charandas the Thief, 1974). Trans. Anjum
  • Katyal. Calcutta: Seagull Books, 2004.
  • Tendulkar, Vijay. “Shantata! Court ChaluAhe” (Silence! The Court is in
  • Session, 1967). Collected Plays in Translation. Translated by Priya
  • Adarkar,et al. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003.


Texts for Student Presentations:

  • Bharati, Dharamvir. AndhaYug (The Blind Epoch, 1954). Trans. AlokBhalla,
  • Delhi: OUP, 2005.
  • Dattani, Mahesh. “Seven Steps Around the Fire”. Collected Plays. New Delhi:
  • Penguin Books, 2000.
  • Elkunchwar, Mahesh. “Atmakatha” (“Autobiography”, 1988). Collected Plays
  • of Mahesh Elkunchwar - Vol. 2. New Delhi: OUP, 2011.
  • Kambar, Chandrashekhar. Jokumaraswami (1972). Trans. Rajiv Taranath.
  • Calcutta: Seagull, 1989.
  • Pamanabhan, Manjula. “Harvest” (1997). H. Gilbert (ed), Postcolonial
  • Plays: An Anthology. New York: Routledge, 2001.
  • Rakesh, Mohan. AdheAdhure(Halfway House, 1969). Trans. BinduBatra,
  • Worldview Publications, Delhi, 2006.
  • Sircar, Badal. “Michil” (Procession)/“Bhoma”. Three Plays: Procession,
  • Bhoma, Stale News. Calcutta: Seagull Books, 1983.
  • Select plays of Jan NatyaManch



  • Awasthi, Suresh. “‘Theatre of Roots’: Encounter with Tradition”. The Drama Review 33.4 (1989).
  • Bharucha, Rustom. “The Revolutionary Theatre of UtpalDutt”. Rehearsals of Revolution: The
  • Political Theatre of Bengal. Calcutta: Seagull, 1983.
  • Dharwadker, Aparna. “Realism and the Edifice of Home”. Theatres of Independence: Drama,
  • Theory, and Urban Performance in India since 1947, New Delhi: OUP, 2006.
  • _______________. “Alternative Satges: Antirealism, Gender, and Contemporary “Folk Theatre””
  • Theatres of Independence: Drama, Theory, and Urban Performance in India since 1947,
  • New Delhi: OUP, 2006.
  • _______________. “The Ironic History of the Nation”. Theatres of Independence: Drama, Theory,
  • and Urban Performance in India since 1947, New Delhi: OUP, 2006.
  • Gunawardana, A. J. Interview with UtpalDutt. “Theatre as a Weapon: An Interview with Utpal
  • Dutt”. The Drama Review, 15.2, (Spring, 1971).
  • Mee, Erin B. “Introduction”. Theatre of Roots: Redirecting the Modern Indian Stage. Calcutta:
  • Seagull Books, 2008.

Assessment structure (modes and frequency of assessments):

S. No.


Period in which the assessment will take place



Class Participation

Throughout the semester



Mid-semester Exam

End Sep/early Oct



Home Assignment

Early Sep



Class Presentation*

End Oct/early Nov



End-semester Exam

As per AUD academic calendar



  • The class presentation component of the assessment may include critical/creative work. Students may choose to work on various components that theatre entails – music, dance, performance, scenography, etc. Others may choose a play analysis based on themes, characters, style, form, etc.