It may be stated at the outset that as per record of this Zonal Cultural Centre, there is no formal document containing a codified Theatre Rejuvenation Scheme as such. Long time back around the year 2001, a presentation was made to the Planning Commission by one of Directors of Zonal Cultural Centres (probably the then Director of West Zone Cultural Centre, Udaipur). The background about Theatre Rejuvenation Scheme is as follows:
There is a long tradition of folk theatre in our country in as much as there are 2-3 traditional theatre forms in almost each state.
The 1980s witnessed the extraordinary rise of the Television industry which made traditional theatre struggle for its survival. Many of the renowned theatre artistes switched over to TV serials and films. Theatre lost its pristine status and mass appeal. Many of the traditional Theatre art forms are now on the verge of extinction and have lost much viewership to TV serials/films (for example, Naqal in Punjab; Bhand Pather in Kashmir; and even Saang in Haryana). It was in this background that Zonal Cultural Centers started making efforts for the revival of theatre movement.
The Ministry of Culture, Government of India accepted the proposal of ZCCs to make special provision for Theatre Rejuvenation in the Plan Schemes to be implemented by ZCCs. Accordingly, funds were earmarked for Theatre Rejuvenation w.e.f. the year 2003-04. This envisaged holding of theatre festivals and workshops for the promotion of theatre which include contemporary, experimental and traditional theatre including street theatre.
TRADITIONAL THEATRE: NZCC has promoted traditional folk theatre of the region in a fairly effective manner. For example, Bhand Pather of the Kashmir region in which stories commemorating the lives of rishis (Islamic sages or rishis) or more contemporary real or fictional figures are enacted. The storylines (or pathers) are often humorous and satirical, and farce is an essential component of the plays have been promoted in as much as a dossier for inscription on UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) was prepared by the NZCC and submitted to Ministry of Culture.
Similarly, in the Punjab region, NZCC has promoted Naqal (mimicry) which is a strong bhand tradition and a dying art. The naqlchi (mimic, sometimes called the bahrupiya) adopts the persona of a well-known person or character and improvises, using satire and farce extensively, to entertain the audience. Presentations by Naqals are made regularly in the fairs and festivals of the region.
Saang is Haryana’s folk theatre form which too has been strongly supported by the NZCC by organising regular Saang festivals.
Bhagat and Kariyala are the folk theatre forms of Himachal Pradesh which have been presented in local fairs and festivals. These dramas are usually built around character types and staged in fairs and festivals of rural areas.