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Alkazi Theatre Archives

A Bibliographic Listing From The Archive

Gender, Culture and Performance: Marathi Theatre and Cinema before Independence

Book: Gender, Culture and Performance: Marathi Theatre and Cinema before Independence
Written by: Meera Kosambi (English)
Published by: Routledge, 2015

Meera Kosambi’s Gender, Culture and Performance is a succinct overview of almost 100 years of Marathi-language theatre, from the 1850s to 1940s covering the early years of Marathi cinema as well. Kosambi focuses largely on Marathi language theatre spread primarily in Maharashtra and some adjacent parts of Gujarat and Karnataka. Kosambi’s central argument is that Marathi theatre and cinema, by engaging with content and performance beyond just its entertainment value, fashioned and refashioned “a liminal society” in Western India. The exploration and explanation of this central theme is also the thread tying the diverse topics in the book together.

“Interestingly a progressive–conservative consensus in the reform discourse across the ideological divide supported Kulkarni’s insistence on women’s exclusion from theatre and the public sphere in general. The only divergent voice was raised by G.G. Agarkar whose consistently progressive reform agenda advocated a mixing of the sexes from childhood through schooling to prevent an unhealthy attitude. Such natural association, he argued, made it possible and natural for girls and boys to interact without undue shyness or gender awareness. After his death in 1895, his Anglo-Marathi paper Sudharak followed this liberal legacy, and aired it in a Marathi review of A.V. Kulkarni’s book. Its arguments are succinct: male actors are unable to perform — even with a great deal of effort — the roles that women could perform with ease and success; the dress of even the well-known stri-parties of the day cannot conceal their original sex; young boys in female dress may not be easily recognisable but are untrained in the difficult art of acting.” (pg. 251)

Gender, Culture and Performance- Marathi Theatre and Cinema before Independence