Introduction to Modern Indian Drama

By Prof. Kiran Keshavamurthy   |   IIT Guwahati
Learners enrolled: 904
This course introduces students to the historical and social debates on modern Indian theatre from the latter decades of the 19th century to the mid-20th century. The purpose of the course is to familiarize students with modern Indian performance traditions and the social and political issues in the works of major modern Indian playwrights. 

INTENDED AUDIENCE  : UG and PG students of Humanities and Social Sciences, Sciences and Engineering
Course Status : Completed
Course Type : Elective
Duration : 8 weeks
Category :
  • Humanities and Social Sciences
  • English Studies
Credit Points : 2
Level : Postgraduate
Start Date : 21 Feb 2022
End Date : 15 Apr 2022
Enrollment Ends : 21 Feb 2022
Exam Date : 24 Apr 2022 IST

Note: This exam date is subjected to change based on seat availability. You can check final exam date on your hall ticket.

Page Visits

Course layout

Week 1: Introduction to the course: general outline & methods: colonial-nationalist debates on the form and function of theatre; Parsi Theatre; the politics of performance and gender: the roles and lives of early male actors and their performance of femininity. The interlinkages and competition between cinema and theatre; other forms of folk and street theatre; the themes of early modern theatre that incorporated folk, puranic and nationalist themes. Overview of early Indian Playwrights: Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Bhartendu Harishchandra and Rabindranath Tagore; Introduction to Post-Independence Theatre, Some Early Figures:  Ebrahim Alkazi, BV Karanth, Badal Sircar, Utpal Dutta, Habib Tanvir, Vijay Tendulkar, Mahesh Elkunchwar, Girish Karnad and Mahesh Dattani

Week 2: Vijay Tendulkar’s Plays: Social Critique of various sites of institutional power and violence like the patriarchal family, the state, courts of law and performance spaces. Plays include Silence! The Court is in Session, Ghashiram Kotwal, and A Friend’s Story

Week 3: Continuation of Vijay Tendulkar: Kanyadaan and summary of Tendulkar. Introduction to Girish Karnad: On his modern adaptations of the Indian Puranas and folktales, his satires of the alienation and disillusionment in modern Indian society and politics, questions of gender and sexual subjectivity. Plays include Hayavadana, Tughlaq.

Week 4: Continuation of Girish Karnad: Dreams of Tipu Sultan, Fire and the Rain, Broken Images. Summary of Karnad.  

Week 5: Introduction to Mahesh Elkunchwar:  On themes of modern alienation of the individual and mortality, religion, gender and sexuality in urban Marathi theatre, experimental and absurdist and expressionist theatre, his intellectual links with Vijay Tendulkar. Plays include Garbo, Desire on the Rocks, The Old Stone Mansion.

Week 6: Continuation of Mahesh Elkunchwar: Sonata. Summary of Mahesh Elkunchwar. Introduction to Mahesh Dattani: Radio plays, one-act plays, and long plays, non-normative desires and sexual subjectivity, his critique of the patriarchal family and the state, the fraught intersections of gender, sexuality and communalism in his plays, Final Solutions, Bravely Fought the Queen 

Week 7: Continuation of Mahesh Dattani: Dance like a Man. Summary of Mahesh Dattani. Introduction to Badal Sircar: satires of human politics, urban alienation, theatre and human rights activism, political theatre for the socially marginalized, and Sircar’s contribution to the foundations of political theatre. Plays include Procession, Bhoma.

Week 8: Continuation of Badal Sircar: Stale News and Conclusion. 

Books and references

  1. Badal Sircar, Three Plays. Seagull Books: Kolkata, 2009.
  2. Bhatia, Nandi (ed.), Modern Indian Theatre. Oxford University Press: New Delhi, 2009.
  3. Dattani, Mahesh, Collected Plays. Penguin India: New Delhi, 2000.
  4. Ghosh, Arjun, A History of the Jana Natya Manch: Plays for the People. Sage India: New Delhi, 2012.
  5. Gupt, Somnath, The Parsi Theatre: Its Origins. Seagull Books: Kolkata, 2005.
  6. Hansen, Kathryn, Stages of Life: early Indian autobiographies. Anthem Press: London, New York, 2011
  7. Hansen, Kathryn, Grounds for Play: The Nautanki Theatre of North India. 1993.
  8. Karnad, Girish, Collected Plays. Oxford University Press: New Delhi, 2017. 
  9. Lal, Ananda, The Oxford Companion to Indian Theatre. Oxford University Press: New Delhi, 2004.
  10. Mahesh Elkunchwar, Collected Plays. Oxford University Press: New Delhi, 2010.
  11. Vijay Tendulkar, Five Plays. Oxford University Press: New Delhi, 1997.

Instructor bio

Prof. Kiran Keshavamurthy

IIT Guwahati
Dr. Kiran Keshavamurthy is assistant professor of English at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Guwahati. He completed his PhD in South and Southeast Asian Studies from University of California, Berkeley. His research interests include gender and sexuality studies, caste studies and modern Indian literatures. His first book which got published in 2016 by Oxford University Press, India, is entitled Beyond Desire: Sexuality in Modern Tamil Literature.

Course certificate

The course is free to enroll and learn from. But if you want a certificate, you have to register and write the proctored exam conducted by us in person at any of the designated exam centres.
The exam is optional for a fee of Rs 1000/- (Rupees one thousand only).
Date and Time of Exams: 24 April 2022 Morning session 9am to 12 noon; Afternoon Session 2pm to 5pm.
Registration url: Announcements will be made when the registration form is open for registrations.
The online registration form has to be filled and the certification exam fee needs to be paid. More details will be made available when the exam registration form is published. If there are any changes, it will be mentioned then.
Please check the form for more details on the cities where the exams will be held, the conditions you agree to when you fill the form etc.


Average assignment score = 25% of average of best 6 assignments out of the total 8 assignments given in the course.
Exam score = 75% of the proctored certification exam score out of 100

Final score = Average assignment score + Exam score

YOU WILL BE ELIGIBLE FOR A CERTIFICATE ONLY IF AVERAGE ASSIGNMENT SCORE >=10/25 AND EXAM SCORE >= 30/75. If one of the 2 criteria is not met, you will not get the certificate even if the Final score >= 40/100.

Certificate will have your name, photograph and the score in the final exam with the breakup.It will have the logos of NPTEL and IIT Guwahati .It will be e-verifiable at nptel.ac.in/noc.

Only the e-certificate will be made available. Hard copies will not be dispatched.

Once again, thanks for your interest in our online courses and certification. Happy learning.

- NPTEL team

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