wiki:Indian Peoples’ Theatre Association

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Indian Peoples’ Theatre Association

Theatre movement informally affiliated to the CPI; launched as an All-India front in Bombay (1943) with a manifesto calling for a ‘ defence of culture against Imperialism and Fascism’. While its immediate antecedents were in the PWA (1936) and thus in the European anti- Fascist movements of the 30s, the front found its identity with Sombhu Mitra’s staging of Bijon Bhattacharya’s play Nabanna (1943) and with Jyotindra Moitra’s song series Nabajibaner Gaan (1944). Both works were based on the Bengal famine of 1943. Subsequent work included travelling musical and theatre groups, predominantly in context of 40s CPI-led struggles in Bengal, Andhra (Telangana) and Kerala. Through the 40s and early 50s, it grew into the only instance of a cultural avant-garde in contemporary Indian history. It was active also in Punjab, Assam (see Jyotiprasad Agarwala and Bhupen Hazarika), Orissa (see K. Pattanayak) and AP (the Praja Natya Mandali, which also made one film, Raja Rao’s Puttillu, 1953), despite a nearprogrammatic emphasis on reclaiming the popular vernacular by using local folk and occasionally popular modes of performance. The strategy’s major strength lay in enabling several regional movements to forge new links and to reinvent their own local traditions, e.g. in Kerala, where the Kerala Peoples’ Arts Club (KPAC) played a key role in the CP’s organisation of the peasantry in Malabar and North Travancore leading to the insurrection against the erstwhile Travancore State (1946- 50). Radical theatre movements around e.g. Thoppil Bhasi’s plays also traced an ancestry via the Young Namboodiri movements of the 30s (with V.T. Bhattathirippad) to the Yogakshema Sabha (Est: 1908) and to the major early 20th C. poet Kumaran Asan. The less activist but equally influential aspect of the front was in the major urban centres with e.g. the work of playwright-film-maker K.A. Abbas and dancer Uday Shankar. For a brief period following WW2 and in the early years of Independence, virtually the entire cultural intelligentsia was associated with or influenced by IPTA/PWA initiatives, possibly because it was seen as the ‘ only cultural organisation engaged in serious creative activity’ (Sudhi Pradhan, 1979). The IPTA’s impact on cinema includes the collective effort of Dharti Ke Lal (1946) mobilising actors Balraj Sahni and Sombhu Mitra, musician Ravi Shankar and writer-scenarist Krishan Chander; Neecha Nagar (1946: cf. Chetan Anand); the plays of Inder Raj Anand staged by Prithviraj Kapoor which led to Raj Kapoor’s film team with e.g. scenarist Abbas and music directors Shankar-Jaikishen. The IPTA also supported some independently made films: e.g. Shantaram’s Dr Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani (1946). In Bengal, its influence on film was mediated through Manoj Bhattacharya’s Tathapi and Nemai Ghosh’s Chinnamul (both 1950), which represent Ghatak’s and Bijon Bhattacharya’s first encounters with film. Other Bengali films connected with the IPTA include Bimal Roy’s Udayer Pathey/ Hamrahi (1944); Satyen Bose’s Bhor Hoye Elo (1953) and Rickshawalla (1955) and Sushil Majumdar’s Dukhir Iman (1954). In Kerala, the key event for the IPTA style’s transition to film was Neelakuyil (1954) by Ramu Kariat and P. Bhaskaran though the KPAC tradition itself was best exemplified by Thoppil Bhasi’s films and scripts.