Revitalising folk theatre

Usha Ganguli in Rudali

Usha Ganguli in Rudali

30 days in September by Mahesh Dattani

30 days in September by Mahesh Dattani



Infusing life into India’s 5,000-year-old rich heritage of folk theatre by recreating and preserving it for the next generation, Zee Theatre brings together theatre stalwarts and production units to shoot live performances in film style and make it available on TV and online. Sangeeta Yadav chats up with Shailja Kejriwal about the initiative

The 5000-year-old heritage of Indian theatre will come alive as Zee Theatre is all set to recreate the plays. There are more than 80 forZee Theatre Logoms of folk theatres like Gujarat’s Akhyana and Bhavai; Karnataka’s Bayalata and Yakshagana; Andhra Pradesh’s Burrakatha; Bihar’s Chhau; Maharashtra’s Dashavatar, West Bengal’s Jatra; Kerala’s Kalaripayattu, Kudiyattam and Kathakali; UP’s Raslila, Nautanki and many more, but only a few have been carried forward by theatre artists and staged.

Theatre that includes acting, dialogue, poetry, music and dance is on a decline due to entertainment through TV, cinema and online. With the foray of Broadway Musical in India and now the Zee Theatres, the theatre scene is opening up and creating various avenues for the artists to recreate folk theatre.

“Theatre is a great form of storytelling which not only has universal subjects, important social message but entertaining at its own. But the art form is on a decline due to people moving to TV and cinema for entertainment. Theatre has been experienced live only up to a point and in a very restricted cities and towns due to lack of proper infrastructure. We’ll recreate and preserve the rich heritage of theatre by staging over 100 plays live across India and other countries and will tie up with schools and colleges for special screenings,” Shailja Kejriwal, chief creative-special projects at Zee Entertainment Enterprise Limited (ZEEL), tells you.

Shailja Kejriwal, Chief Creative - Special Projects at Zee Entertainment

Shailja Kejriwal

From Mohan Rakesh, Jaywant Dalvi, Vijay Tendulkar to Surendra Verma, Mahesh Dattani, Ranjit Kapoor, Shafaat Khan and other renowned playwright’s work from Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali and English theatre will be recreated. Some plays include Atul Kumar’s Piya Behrupiya, Ranjit Kapoor’s Janpath Kiss Milind Phatak and Rasika Joshi’s White Lily & Night Rider, Chandrashekhar Phansalkar’s Mera Kuch Saaman, etc.

Apart from live shows, the initiative will be filming the performances to broadcast it on the TV channels and also make it available online at

“Even if a play has 1,000 shows and goes house full, it will maximum reach out to four lakh people. To make these plays accessible from four lakh to four crore people, we’ve tie-up with the HD channels to have live broadcasts. Later, these plays will be broadcast in seasons of 13 plays each,” Kejriwal says.

Having influenced from the international theatre scene like National Theatre Live in London, Broadway Musicals and many others, the ZEE Theatre is revamping the Indian theatre scene and making it more modern and advanced.

“Theatre can be filmed in movie style. Thus, we’ve roped in theatre director who does the production roundup and makes it ready to travel on ground. We have filming directors, actors, and production designers who’ve worked in both films and theatre. The team and the actors are trained in technicalities of shooting like dealing with the cameras and sound. The live music will be brought back in a big way. The biggest trend in theatre is subtitles which we’ll be introducing in India. This would encourage the Indian artists to perform in their native language,” she tells you adding that while recreating the plays, a lot of dos and don’ts were kept in mind. “We stuck to the original content. To broadcast on channels, we’ve not edited the video to fit into TV’s time slots,” Kejriwal says.

(The story got published in Sunday Pioneer –


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