In an age where people can opt to watch a movie in an air-conditioned movie hall, or stream the latest movies and shows on their phone in the comfort of their own homes, why would people still come out in huge numbers to sit on plain old plastic chairs inside a makeshift tent to watch mobile theatre? Maybe the fact that you can actually see the story unfold right in front of you, instead of through the screen, is thrilling, or maybe it has something to do with the fact that the audience is much livelier and is not shy of shouting out witty comments, making it way more immersive. Whatever the reason, anyone who has experienced mobile theatre will have to agree that there is something quite special about watching a show. In Assam, mobile theatre has become a major entertainment industry, said to be worth crores. We take a look at its history, and how it managed to give the film industry in the State a run for its money.
When Assamese films started suffering from heavy losses in the late 90s and early 20s, the theatre was initially seen simply as an alternative, both for the actors and the people of Assam in general. But, with time, the theatre industry started to grow in popularity. The first mobile theatre group of Assam was established in 1963. It was Nataraj Theatre, founded by playwright and actor Achyut Lahkar, who is commonly referred to as the father of mobile theatre or Bhryamyman, as otherwise known in Assam.
It is interesting to note that mobile theatre took an organised form, after a long journey of more than 30 years, wherein it was in the form of ‘yatra’ and ‘opera’ in the initial stage. Revolutionary dramatist Brajanath Sarma’s Kohinoor Opera was the preindication of mobile theatre in Assam. And so, it is no surprise that Sarma is credited as being the pioneer of Assamese commercial mobile stage.
‘Mobile theatre of Assam has a long heritage in the field of performing art. They have been around from the ‘60s. However, most of them started prospering in the ‘80s, after political tensions killed cinema halls in the ‘70s,’ shared Utpal Barpujari, a renowned filmmaker and critic from Assam. ‘The term “mobile theatre” was first used by the renowned social worker Radha Govinda Baruah in the remark book of Suradevi Theatre after watching the performances in Latasil playground, Guwahati.’
He further added, ‘Despite very little financial assistance from corporate houses or sponsors, the mobile theatres of Assam has reached a milestone rare in Indian theatre history.’ Every year, after rigorous rehearsals, the groups begin their seven-month journey, from the month of June or July, across Assam. Each troupe, employing more than 100 people, performs in at least 50 locations. It is common to see big actors from the Assamese film industry also take part.
Even when television and video streaming boom seems to have affected the market for feature films, mobile theatre carries on at ease. Plays are enacted for close to 240 days every year in front of audiences comprising thousands of people, by nearly a hundred theatre companies, each having two to three performances every day. Tickets cost anywhere between ₹50 and ₹2,500.
Utpal Barpujari recounts a first-hand experience depicting the popularity of the plays. ‘Last year, I went for a play in Guwahati at 11 pm, and it was a full house. Assamese audiences like seeing their stars sing and dance right in front of them.’ It has to be noted that mobile theatre in Assam is not just a mode of entertainment; they have also acted as a medium to spread awareness on various important social issues.
Popularity and Profit
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
Tales of Love, Loss, Migration, and Violence
An exclusive interview with writer Reema Rajbanshi about her latest book
Working Together to Save Lives
The District Road Safety Committee in Hailakandi is working with the public to script a success story in reducing road accidents
Plan, Pack and Explore
Here are some Indian destinations that have opened up post-Covid that are allowing tourists to visit and explore
Keeping the Football Fever Alive
Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools recently released an app to help aspiring players continue their training even in the midst of the pandemic
The Tunnel with Strategic Importance
A look at the Atal Tunnel that was inaugurated by the Prime Minister a few weeks back
Inspiring Role-models from NE
We list a few inspiring role-models who have conquered all obstacles to achieve their dreams
Expression on Canvas
Sewon Rai from Sikkim is making a name for himself in the field of art
Familiar Yet Fresh
S.A.L.T. (Salt And Light Travelling) Band is fusing Naga folk music with other genres to create music that is melodic and different
Coping With PMS
If you are struggling with PMS symptoms, then these tips will help you when it’s that time of the month
A Touch of Divinity
One of Guwahati’s oldest libraries is home to classic books about different faiths and religions
‘Elections In Bengal, TN, Kerala, Assam Immediate Challenge'
BJP chief J P Nadda on Wednesday marked the completion of one year as head of the ruling party by declaring elections in West Bengal, Assam, Kerala and Tamil Nadu as “immediate challenge” for the party and by saying that the death of party workers in political violence in Bengal would not go in vain.
MANIPUR: The Birthplace of Modern Polo
TODAY, AS IT WAS THE PRECEDENCE CENTURIES BACK, PEOPLE OF MANIPUR HAVE THE BELIEF THAT THE MANIPURI POLO RULES WERE CRAFTED BY NONE OTHER THAN “MARJING - THE GOD OF POLO”
RECALLING 2020 NORTHEAST IN THE GONE BY
The year 2020 a series of events that will go down in history. The developments were nothing less than a roller coaster ride not only for the Northeastern region of India but for the entire world. As we are at the last juncture of this tumultuous year, Mumeninaz Zaman recalls the anecdotes of the journey so far.
तरुण गोगोई का निधन
असम के पूर्व मुख्यमंत्री तरुण गोगोई का सोमवार को निधन हो गया।
CALL FOR A MUSEUM STOKED CONTROVERSY IN ASSAM
A proposal made by an MLA in Assam has recently stoked controversy in the state. While the MLA defended his stand in the name of preserving the culture and heritage of a particular community, politicians, intellectuals and common men have ridiculed it as a vested political interest. Northeast Today writes
BORDER CONFUSION IS CREATING BORDER CONFLICT
The long standing border dispute between Assam and Mizoram has resurfaced with the recent incidents of violence in the adjoining districts of both the states. The dispute has been recurring over decades, which is disturbing the peace of the region. The Northeastern region has faced the wrath of insurgency, infiltration, oppressed with vested political interests that has only fuelled the dispute. The locals are vouching for an end to the border issue which they claim has occurred mostly due to infiltration in the border areas. The complex territories with no proper demarcation of the border areas be it the international or inter-state boundaries often creates confusion, which led to the conflicts. Mumeninaz Zaman reports.
Gamosas – A Gift Of Respect And Love
A woven piece of cloth that can be worn on a daily basis or used to cover sacred texts, or sometimes gifted as a sign of respect, the gamosa has evolved over the years to become a very important part of Assamese culture. Brinda Gill explores...
Tigers Palate Tickles Saffron Leader
The Tiger (Panthera Tigris) is our National Animal and a Schedule-I Mammal protected under The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
एनआरसी में बांग्लादेशियों के नाम पर मचा है बवाल
एनआरसी की अंतिम सूची में बड़ी संख्या में अवैध बांग्लादेशियों के नाम निकलकर सामने आए हैं. इसी के बाद असम सरकार ने सुप्रीम कोर्ट से अंतिम सूची में शामिल नामों का दोबारा सत्यापन करने और 10 प्रतिशत नामों को हटाने की अनुमति मांगी है.
MAN IN POLL POSITION
THE BJP HAS THE UNENVIABLE TASK OF MANAGING HIMANTA BISWA SARMA’S AMBITION AND KEEPING HIM ON ITS SIDE TO RETAIN A PRESENCE IN THE NORTHEAST