The Parsi Theatre - Its Origins and Development

The Parsi Theatre - Its Origins and Development

Product ID: 16319

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Author: Somnath Gupt
Kathryn Hansen/
Editor(s): Kathryn Hansen
Publisher: Seagull Books
Year: 2005
Language: English
Pages: 236
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8170462738


From its inception in 1853, Parsi theatre rapidly developed into a mobile, company-based entertainment that reached across colonial and princely India and extended overseas into Southeast Asia. Like its counterparts in modern Bengali and Marathi, it employed the prevailing local languages, used the European-style proscenium with richly painted backdrop curtains and trick stage effects, and depended on spectacle and melodrama to create audience appeal.

Simultaneously, it ushered in the conventions and techniques of realism, marking the transition from stylized open-air presentations to a new urban drama. Although largely displaced by motion pictures after the advent of sound in the 1930s, Parsi theatre remains a vital component of the subcontinent’s cultural heritage, significant for its long-term impact on diverse regional theatrical styles and the popular cinema.

There is a great need for reliable information in English that would shed light on the history and practice of this important theatrical form. A vital source is a Hindi book that appeared in 1981, Somnath Gupt’s Parsi Thiyetar, the best single reference for the early period of Parsi theatre history. It covers the antecedent phase of English theatre in eighteenth-century Bombay and extends through the end of the nineteenth century. Gupt consulted a range of source materials in several Indian languages as well as in English. The type of material is diverse, including advertisements, reviews and letters from English and Gujarati newspapers; early autobiographies and memoirs; and compendia of theatre lore published in Gujarati and Urdu.

Through translation, editing and annotation, Kathryn Hansen has sought to make Gupt’s Parsi Thiyetar-one of the most frequently consulted studied of the seminal Parsi theatre form-available to the general reader and the theatre specialist, thus making way for further research.



The Parsi theatre: Its Origins and Development
A Few Words
Before the Parsi Theatre
The Origins of the Parsi Theatre
The Development of the Parsi Theatre
Urdu Dramatists of the Parsi Stage
The Parsi Theatrical Companies
Parsi Actors
Other Elements of the Parsi Theatre
The Indar Sabha and its Influence
Impact of the Parsi Theatrical Companies
The Beginning of Hindu Drama in Bombay and Maharashtra