TV Supporting Theatre?

Recalling Shakespeare’s “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts……..”


Ask an artist & a connoisseur about their great fear & the greatest love. Their answer respectively would be acting & watching a “Live performance on stage”. If there existed one medium that nourishes your conscience, titillates your senses, warms your cockles & serves your soul, it must be by way of an expression of honesty, exclusive to theatre alone. People like Girish Karnad, Mahesh Dattani, Rahul da Cunha, Dolly Thakore, Lilette Dubey, Naseeruddin Shah, Makarand Deshpande, Quasar Thakore Padamsee tell you a tale of how theatre can be liberating, educating, inspirational, reinvigorating & accomplishing too.

In India, theatre has been an inseparable part of the Indian culture from where some of the legendary actors & actresses have made a mark in art & film world. The challenges to keep such a thing alive have only multiplied in recent times with virtually no support or succour in terms of either the tech or the audiences. It would be a travesty if we were eventually to come to grips without theatre performances or personalities. That would be a sham. Veteran film & theatre personalities have expressed their deep dismay about the fading of live stage performances as also the failure of the stakeholders & Government machinery to protect this cultural legacy from vanishing.

Modern day millennial & Gen Y is highly impatient & unappreciative of theatre. Even when they acknowledge the need to enjoy the best quality content, service & resounding atmosphere, they may not be receptive to the idea of staying stuck inside an ordinary auditorium for what they think isn’t worth the time. Theatre alas, may not live up to such an expectation given the diminishing value & lack of audiences that could make providing such facilities possible. This is where a very strong opinion is building about televising such plays. That may just be what the doctor had ordered for the ailing art as echoed by noted film & television personalities.

Theatre performances are akin to storytelling. The artists feel that drama or a play is one of the most original forms of art. What you may blurredly get to see in a movie, is honestly played on stage. Be it social stories, mythical, political stories, stories about our livelihood, our society, romanticism or poetry, everything can be conveyed through a play. Hence it is imperative that this art form is protected, preserved & nurtured for future generations to understand the meaning of pure depiction & expression of human feelings & sentiments. So while the forces responsible for the survival of this trade shall do everything at their command to keep it alive, it remains to be seen how far they can succeed in this noble mission.

The beauty of performing art is that it is experienced live by several people at any one given time and at one given venue. But a particular performance cannot reach everywhere. That is the limitation of theatre as opposed to cinema, which can be showcased, or a serial which can be telecast in multiple mediums, multiple places at the same time. So, is the emergence of new age Bollywood stories taking away the essence of watching a play? The jury is out on this. It is ironic that while Bollywood has actually benefited from theatre with gifted actors, writers & directors having come from this world only, theatre has itself receded into oblivion with no reciprocal support or helming by the film industry.

Theatre is a medium that cuts into your deepest crevices of conscience & provides for a reason to introspect. It has all the ingredients of a perfect pot boiler sans noise like psychology, emotions, society & politics. It is actually the best vehicle for communicating human truth and this does not go out of fashion.

Though we are witnessing some sort of a crisis in this medium depicting human action & emotion, the situation isn’t so terribly dire. There is a growing incidence of the newbie’s taking to theatre to give vent to their feelings. We may not call it resurgence; however more and more youngsters are experiencing theatre right from their school days to college & after. These are good signs for sure. By indulging in theatrics, youngsters get exposed to intellectually stimulating experiences & it also unleashes the instinctive leaning that lay hidden within. Hence presenting such plays on television & reproducing the ones played on stage could lend fresh life to this dying art form.

There cannot be a better medium than theatre to showcase our rich cultural heritage & history. Hence a concerted effort is required to preserve the art of drama and emotions of theatre, increasing its reach beyond a few privileged cities and taking it to audiences short of time. Tata Sky has recently launched Tata Sky Theatre, a 24-hour dedicated platform to provide an ad-free theatre-watching experience on digital devices. The content is curated with the best plays and performances from the finest theatre groups, bringing multiple genres of plays under one platform to be accessible from the comfort and convenience of one’s home.

Theatre is one of the oldest surviving forms of expression & entertainment. More so in India where legends have been made & life depicted in the most humane & honest form ever. In conclusion, televising may be the next big thing that could happen to theatre performances & plays. With such big audiences & the capacity of individual broadcaster to attract more, theatre could well be on course to revival through the medium of television. These sure are interesting times to watch out for.