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Alkazi Theatre Archives


Analysing Theatre Circuits through Group Festivals: Looking at the Brochure of 1961 Bohurupee Festival at AIFACS, Delhi

Red Oleander (1923-24), earlier titled ‘Yakshapuri’, became one of the earliest works of Indian theatre critiquing modern totalitarianism, right at the cusp of the Non-Cooperation movement gaining momentum. When a megalomaniac ruler uses his subjects in the gold mining town of Yakshapuri as means to produce more personal wealth, the story’s protagonist Nandini tries to break barriers between the king and his seclusion from the public and their needs.

Performed only once in Tagore’s lifetime, the play was revived in 1954 by Shombhu Mitra’s ‘Bohurupee’, a theatre company focused on Indian cultural practices in the context of a decolonized, independent framework. 

Theatre festivals and their archives offer a great insight into the developing landscape of the Indian arts. Research into theatre circuits of various groups may shed light on the prevalent hierarchy between the regional and national theatre and elucidate inter-regional as well as international theatre networks. 

The brochure of the 1961 festival of Bohurupee at AIFACS, New Delhi not only gives one a sense of the theatre group’s networking, circuits and reach, but allows one to understand that the choice of plays for touring allowed the group to introduce new audiences to its ideology.

The brochure includes photographs of plays like Raktakarabi, ‘Kanchan Ranga’, which delves into an exploration of what happens to individual conscience when  unexpected wealth is acquired and ‘Putulkhela’, an adaptation of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House which traces the awakening of a woman from her previously unexamined life of domestic, wifely comfort. 

One can say that these plays were reflective of the myriad contemporary questions posed against the homogenous identity forged by the national canon, as opposed to the regional practice that challenged the dominant political discourse and represented for itself an alternative post-colonial identity, reflective of its time.

Analysing Theatre Circuits through Group Festivals- Looking at the Brochure of 1961 Bohurupee Festival at AIFACS, Delhi

Images Courtesy: Anand Gupt Collection/ Alkazi Theatre Archives