National Seminar on "Modernity and Indian Theatre", September 27 & 28, 2013

full name / name of organization: 
Department of English, Gauhati University

'Modern' Indian theatre is fashioned by western as well as indigenous theatrical traditions. This theatre as we know it is also urban, having evolved from its early avatars in 19th century Bombay and Kolkata, to the multifaceted, national and postcolonial construct that it is today. Current ideas of the 'modern' and 'modernity' become more complex and throw up remarkably challenging questions when looked at through the prism of Indian theatre and theatre criticism. It is difficult to define 'modern' Indian theatre as a discipline with specific inbuilt notions of modernity that renders it significantly different from its earlier phases. Despite the overwhelming influences of Western modernity, modern Indian theatre (in English and in other Indian languages), has freely – if somewhat self-consciously – drawn on myth, history, legend and folklore. Indigenous traditions of music, dance and spectacle have informed performances and concepts derived from classical treatises such as the Rasa theory, have been easily assimilated into this modern theatre, making drama one of the most important genres through which a specific "Indian modernity" may be studied. Until very recently, there was not much debate on the complexities and ambiguities of this modern Indian theatre, even as Indian modernity panned out through the mid-1850s to the present, across the marker of 1947.
The very notion of modernity in the context of Indian theatre / performance is problematic. Indian theatre historiography tends to focus on 'national', chronological theatre histories to establish the 'ancientness'; 'unity' or continuity, while others focus on specific languages or regions. A distinctive development in post-1947 theatre criticism bears an unequivocally 'decolonizing' tint that indicts imports of western traditions of representation in urban proscenium theatre as harmful colonial legacies that must be offset by reclamation of indigenous and pre-colonial traditions of performance. Within these parameters, definitions of theatrical modernity remain nebulous: they indicate practices and influences that must remain under erasure, because of their links to colonialism.
Why is the extraordinary character of the 'modern revolution' that occurs in urban Indian theatre in the middle of the 19th century largely ignored? How does its volatile development under colonial / postcolonial conditions, and the multiplicity of resonances that it gathers from vital and different theatrical languages across the country, lead to a growth of a 'modern' theatre? What are the processes through which it gathers its material from its past? Despite looking back to its roots, how does this theatre remain entrenched firmly in the present, with all its attendant complexities and paradoxes? The plays of Habib Tanvir, Mohan Rakesh, Chandrashekhar Kambar, K. N. Panikkar, Girish Karnad, Vijay Tendulkar, Ratan Thiyam, Kanhaiyalal, Arun Sarmah, Badal Sircar, Safdar Hashmi, Mahashweta Devi, Usha Ganguly, Mahesh Dattani, Poile Sengupta, Mahesh Elkunchwar, Dina Mehta and Manjula Padmanabhan to name a few, are as varied as they are similar – partaking of a multiplicity of materials, ideologies, histories, forms and sensibilities and rendering them intelligible to audiences at home and across the world.
The proposed seminar will discuss issues thrown up by such ideas of modernity and contemporary theatre in India, and in so far as it relates to issues relating to the modernity debate, the Indian theatres of the mid-nineteenth century.
Papers are invited on the following (or related) areas:
 Theatre historiography and theory
 Theorizing the modern in the context of theatre in India
 Modernity, postcoloniality and Indian theatre
 The Natyashastra, Rasa theory and modernity
 Natya, Nritya, Abhinaya: theatre and other performance arts
 The Regional focus and modern theatre
 Feminist, postfeminist, and queer theatres in India
 Myth, memory, folklore, history and the modern theatre
 Western realism and contemporary Indian theatre
 Activism and modern theatre
 Nationalism, modernity and theatre
Paper proposals should be adequately backed by theoretical insights and contexts and should be in the form of a 250-word abstract and a title. Paper presenters will be allocated a maximum reading time of 15 minutes each to be followed by 5 minutes interaction time. However, they should carry the longer version of the paper, if ready, and submit to the organizers for consideration for publication. The paper presenters must follow the latest MLA handbook format and are to submit the abstracts of their papers accompanied by a brief biographical note, including institutional affiliation along with short bio-data by 15th August 2013.
To submit a proposal, or for more information, please write to Asha Kuthari Chaudhuri or Aparna Bhattacharyya at the Department of English, Gauhati University at the following e-mail addresses:

Seminar Venue: Department of English, Gauhati University, Guwahati-781014, Assam, India

The registration fee for the participants will take care of seminar kit, morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea. The last date for registration is 30th August 2013. Participants are requested to confirm their participation and arrival early so as to enable the organizers to arrange for the hospitality.
Registration fee: Rs. 1500/-
Participants may send their Registration Fees after the acceptance of abstracts by Crossed Demand Draft payable at State Bank of India, Guwahati University Branch to Department of English, Gauhati University, National Seminar on "Modernity and Indian Theatre" to:
Asha Kuthari Chaudhuri (+91-9678004384)
Aparna Bhattacharyya (+91-9435046528)
Convenors, National Seminar on "Modernity and Indian Theatre"
Department of English,
Gauhati University,
Guwahati – 781014
Assam, India.

About the Organisers
Gauhati University came into being in the year 1948. The University is the oldest and largest educational institution of higher studies in the entire North East. The University is funded by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the Government of Assam.
The Department of English, established in 1955, seeks to expand the parameters of English Studies by fostering a meaningful dialogue between various disciplines and by giving an impetus to the concept of Cultural Studies without totally breaking away from the canon or traditional ways of teaching/reading literature.