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Alkazi Theatre Archives


Exploring the Emergence of Dalit Theatre on Marathi Stage in 1980s: Mapping the Discussions on Dalit Theatre as Published in Newspapers and Magazine Articles

“दलित रंगकर्मियों की स्पष्ट धारणा है कि वे मध्यवर्गीय दृष्टिकोण से अन्याय-अत्याचार एवं शोषणजन्य समस्याओं को मुखर करने के प्रयोग एवं प्रयासों को अपर्याप्त ही नहीं मानते, बल्कि उन्हें अस्वीकार करते हैं। उनका विश्वास है कि हमारी व्यथा-वेदना, संघर्ष, विद्रोहपूर्ण बोध की अभिव्यक्ति प्रचलित रंग-पद्धतियों, भाषा, अभिनय शैलियों एवं रंगमंच के विभिन्न उपकरणों के परंपरागत रूपों के माध्यम से संभव नहीं।…दलित रंगकर्मी अपनी नाट्यात्मक अभिव्यक्ति के प्रयासों में प्रचलित, बाहरी राहों से हटकर अपना स्वतंत्र रास्ता नाप रहे हैं।…इन सब स्थितियों में से दलित रंगमंच उभर रहा है, अधिकाधिक सक्षम और अपने-आप में विशिष्ट बन रहा है।”
— Durga Dixit, Natrang, Issue 40, 1982, p.31

The 1970s witnessed a rise in Dalit politics with the formation of the Committee for Mandal Commission and with the foundation of the Dalit Panthers in 1979. Simultaneously, Dalit theatre on the Marathi stage started gaining momentum from the concluding years of the decade, and became one of the strongest sites for political dissemination.

Dixit’s article demarcates Dalit Theatre from sympathetic representations of the Dalits on the middle-class stage by demonstrating that Dalit theatre-makers staged the experiential realities of caste hierarchies. These views are echoed in Satish Alekar’s interview(1986) where he asserts his support for Dalit Theatre, but agrees that an honest narrative for Dalit theatre can evolve only through lived experiences.

The lacunae between the upper-caste conventional theatre and Dalit theatre can be observed through the scarcity of coverage of Dalit theatre in print culture. Left theatre groups like IPTA, took up only the middle-class representation of Dalits, as informed in issue 2 of the Seagull Theatre Quarterly (1994), which reports of the staging of Ratnakar Matkari’s Lokkatha ‘78 in Calcutta, adapted in Hindi by director Ramesh Talwar and produced by IPTA, Bombay. However, the Dalit Theatre itself, as explained above, did not accept such a portrayal of their lived realities.

Exploring the Emergence of Dalit Theatre on Marathi Stage in 1980s

All Courtesy: Anand Gupt Collection/Alkazi Theatre Archives