Contemporary theatre in India cohabits the spaces of newly emerging mass media and can be seen attempting to adapt its elements and forms. Theatre, as a place of viewing and an activity, is essentially a social medium catering to a large group of people and hence helping shape a public discourse. Then, in such a mass communication landscape, how does one define theatre and its quintessential elements? How can one rethink theatre — its presence, performance and participation — in the context of the digital/ online performance spaces? How does this alter the understanding of the circulation of a ‘social energy’ present in physical theatre spaces? And how does one embrace new forms to instigate social change through theatre, during times of mass-isolation?
An opinion article by Nemichandra Jain published on 16th August 1989 in the Navbharat Times, poses questions that may provide for an in-depth understanding of the contemporary landscape of mass media in India. Jain interrogates the future and form of poetry, stories, theatre, music, and dance in the era of ‘explosive proliferation of mass media’. After noting certain views on this question, he states that each medium has its own nature and technicalities but explains that the ownership of mediums like radio and television, which in the 1980s were government regulated and driven by capitalism, often altered and produced biased or censored content, rather than disseminating truth through objectivity.
He concludes by saying that “the danger to creation and creativity is not so much from the mediums” as some creators of the time contended, but “from the populist misconceptions and simplifications prevalent among the creators.”
All courtesy: Anand Gupt Collection/Alkazi Theatre ArchivesRangavarta