History of Indian English Drama


The HISTORY OF INDIAN ENGLISH DRAMA started from the earliest Indian English play was written in 1831, when Krishna Mohan Banerji write The Persecuted of the present state in Calcutta. English plays could only be written after the English established themselves in India. - Further, there should be enough people proficient in English to constitute an audience. So, like the first poetry, this play comes after the establishment of Hindu College in Calcutta, after nearly a generation had been educated in English and been sufficiently influenced by western ideas. 

The tide of reformation had begun and this play illustrates this movement - it is about the conflict in the mind of a young man, a Bengali, between orthodox Hindu practices and Modern ideas inculcated by English education.


Modern theatre came to India with the British and the first theatrical companies were established in those areas which first came under their influence. The first Modern production in Bengali was in November 1795, when two plays Disguise and Love is the Best Doctor were performed in Bengali translation. These translations were done in alliance by a Russian, Lebedoff, Goloknath Das. By 1831, a Bengali theatre (the Hindoo Theatre) had been established which began by - staging portions of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. What this theatrical activity led to was the birth of Modern theatre in various Indian languages and not in Indian English. The felt need for English drama was obviously fulfilled by original British plays. Poetry and drama have always been close companions.
This is by a famous poet, one who is famous in his own Indian language as a pioneer and an innovator, one who is famous for abjuring English to write in his own language. Michael Madhusudan Dutt of course. A version of Harsha's Sanskrit play, is a translation of his Bengali original.
Modern theatre came to India with the British and the first theatrical companies were established in those areas which first came under their influence. The first Modern production in Bengali was in November 1795, when two plays Disguise and Love is the Best Doctor were performed in Bengali translation. These translations were done in alliance by a Russian, Lebedoff, Goloknath Das. By 1831, a Bengali theatre (the Hindoo Theatre) had been established which began by - staging portions of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. What this theatrical activity led to was the birth of Modern  theatre in various Indian languages and not in Indian English., myexamsolution, my exam solution, ugc net english notes, ugc net

In Mumbai (then Bombay) the first theatre, The Bombay Amateur Theatre, was built in 1776 but was exclusively for performances by visiting European companies. Marathi theatre made an early start because of this. Vishnudas Bhave's Sitasvayamvara was produced in 1843 though Annasaheb Kirloskar's production of Shakuntal in 1880 is seen by many to be of crucial importance. The Parsi Natak Mandali was established in 1852 and The Elphinstone Dramatic Club and Victoria Natak Mandali followed. The first recorded play in English from Mumbai is a verse play. This is The First Parsi Baronet by C.S. Nazir produced in 1866. The only other plays that have survived from this early period are D.M. Wadia's The Indian Heroine (1877), which was based on the events of the first war of independence (1857), and P.P. Meherjee's Dolly Parsen (1918).
 In Chennai (then Madras), the Madras Dramatic Society was founded in 1875. It mainly encouraged amateur European theatrical productions. The Oriental Drama Club was recognized in 1882, and The Sarasa Vinodidini Sabha, an unprofessional dramatic society, was founded by Krishnamachary in 1895.

For Indian English Drama, The Madras theatrical scene seems to have been quite active and a number of playwrights came to the limelight. These playwrights wrote on social as well as historical and mythological themes. Some of the plays. Two volumes of his plays entitled Dramatic Divertissements appeared in 1921. These plays expose the behavioral patterns of the middle class. They seem to have been written as light entertainment or farces. The collection includes the following plays: Blessed in a Wife, Vichu's Wife, The Surgeon-General's Prescription, The Point of View, and Wait for the Stroke. Aiyangar writes highly entertaining one-act and two-act plays but doesn't let his talent loose over a full length play.

Indian English Drama: Sri Aurobindo

Pre-independence theatre, there are two colossal figures who left their mark III manly varied fields have to be taken into account. They are Sri Aurobindo and Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore's real impact is in Bengali and the plays that are well known in English translation like The Post Office and The King of the Dark Chamber were not even translated by him. He was a great literary and cultural figure and his impact on his contemporaries was enormous but I don't think we should look at him in such a short survey of Indian English drama.
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Sri Aurobindo has been written five complete and six incomplete verse-plays between 1891 and 1916, the five complete plays are Perseus the Deliverer, Vasavadutta, The Viziers of Bassora, Rodogune, and Eric the King of Norway. The titles themselves Aurobindo's plays are not confined to India at all -- past or present. Eric is set in ancient Norway and Vasavadutta in ancient India, while the other three are set in the Middle East. Aurobindo is better known as a poet and philosopher, his plays trying to emulate Shakespeare and unable to pull it off. But obviously with a writer of his distinction, these plays do reward readers with flashes of brilliance or playwrights from before independence are Harindrafiatii Chattopadhyaya, and Bharati Ssrabai, T.P. Knilasam, Harindranath Chatropadliyaya may be known as Sarojini Naidu's brother but they were an accomplished poet in his own right. They have many plays to his credit, a light fantasy. They have seven verse-plays to credit

He presents episodes to highlight the individual’s search and fulfilment as opposed to societal curbs and hierarchies. They make good reading. Member of the Progressive Writers Movement, Chattopadhyaya's socialist sympathies come to the fore in his five social plays. These are The Parrot, The Sentry's Lantern,  The Window, The Coffin, and The Evening Lamp. The Window is dedicated to "The Brave Textile Workers of Parel, Bombay" and is about the exploitation of poor laborers by industrialists.
The Parrot examines morality, his bondage of customs, 'The Sentry's Lantern is about the evils of imperialism and is dedicated "To all -the victims of Imperialist Gallows". The three characters in the play, a merchant, a bourgeois poet, and a worker, give it’s their thoughts before they are hanged. It-is the worker who faces death boldly. The Coffin which is "Dedicated to the progressive writers of India" satirizes a bourgeois artist and shows us the responsibilities of writers.
The Evening Lamp is an ironic sketch of a young romantic. His deep social commitment is evident throughout, as he exposes social evil and celebrates the achievements of the lowly and the downtrodden. He is good at writing crisp dialogues and his plays do manage to impress the modern reader.

Indian English Drama: T.P. Kailasam

T.P. Kailasam, a role to play in two histories of literature one is Indian English and the other Kannada. He will always be better known for his contribution to Kannada drama than Indian English. He chose Kannada for his contemporary social plays and English for a rendering of tragic heroes from the epics.
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Further the ease with wildish he writes his Kannada is missing in his English. He wrote in the spoken language of the middle class in Kannada, so much so that it seemed like a mix of Kannada and English (he called it 'Kannadanglo'). In English however he tried to heighten the language with Sanskrit tenns. Obviously he reserved his wit and humor for his Kannada plays. Kailasam has chosen most of his main characters and dramatic episodes from Indian epics. The Burden is based on the Ramayana, and depicts Bharata's feelings on hearing about his father's death. Fulfilment and The Purpose are based on the Ekalavya story from the Mahabharata, which supplies the story for Karna and Keechaka as well. Though Kailasam went to the epics for these plays, he champions the underdog, and gives us refreshingly different views of these characters. Bharati Sarabai's two plays, The Well of the People (1943), and Two Women (1952), show the impact of Gandhi. The first play was inspired by a story in the Harijan, and depicts an old woman who unable to go to Kashi and Haridwar decides to build a well for the so called 'untouchables' instead. The second play depicts two women, Anuradha, the wife of the anglicised Kanakaraya, and Urvashi, a widowed girl who has become a devotional singer. The play seems to advocate that spiritual peace can be found here and now, and complete fulfilment isn't to be found in giving up the world and material ties. Both the plays, the first written in verse and the second in prose, show Sarabai's spiritual and religious beliefs. Both the plays show a society in transition while the first seems to do it far more effectively. Verse-drama has had a cheered history but if it has to be successful Sarabai's natural speech patterns would be worth emulating.


History of pre-independence Indian English drama, Indian English dramatists like their counterparts in other genres were involved in constructing an ideal India. For this they mined the epics and puranas, the lives of saints, and history. They explored and reinterpreted their chosen texts in order to create the India and the Indian who could stand shoulder to shoulder with the English. The Indian they constructed was necessarily Hindu because of the past that they were uncovering in its glory. They were actively engaged in constructing a new society, one that went beyond their specific locations in terms of caste and region. Their territory was India and their audience Indian. This would explain why T.P. Kailasam wrote his engaging rooted social plays in Kannada but his epic character sketches in English. Their India had a Sanskritic past and an English present, their regions had other histories and other needs. This is perhaps why Indian English drama never took off while theatres in other Indian languages flourished during this time.

Indian English dramatists couldn't serve or create any needs among audiences. The audience that wanted theatre in English could see European productions or even Indian productions of English European plays. The audience that wanted Indian theatre could watch theatre in Indian languages. The only way Indian English theatre could have succeeded was to become theatrically provocative and interesting, address local realities in local English’s. This was hardly ever done. Not only do they make no theatrical innovations, and write mainly short plays, they do not even look to Indian dramatic techniques even while they look to ancient Indian epics for characters and episodes. Their dramaturgy doesn't even seem to extend beyond the Elizabethan. There are of course many other playwrights and plays. More than three hundred. Indian English plays were written before independence. There were dramatists like A.S. Panchapakesa Aiyar who were popular in their own times.

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