India has a rich heritage of various performing arts. They are all intrinsically linked with people, culture, rituals and traditions. Some ancient performing arts are still prevalent and even popular in the modern times. They are the link between the past and the present. Performing arts, may it be classical or tribal or folk are different manifestation of life and livelihood and they are all inter connected with each other, art is not seen as something apart from life, a mere ornamentation or entertainment, but as an intrinsic part of it.
The different forms of Indian performing arts are not only highly commended by Indian people, but appreciated and admired by people from other parts of the world.
Various folk musical instruments
Most of the Indian performing arts are based on Navarasa or the essence of emotions. Nava is nine and rasa is essence or aesthetics, so navarasa is the nine basic emotions upon which most of the performing arts and aesthetics are relied on. These nine basic essences are happiness, anger, disgust, fear, sorrow, courage, compassion, wonder and serenity. Although all the performing arts revolve around these rasas, their individual interpretation and implementation can be very different from each other. Dance and theatre employ the rasas more effectively in their performances, through facial and body language, costume and settings. Music, Dance, Theatre and Film are four major streams of performing arts. Then there is an array of folk music, dance, theatre, and puppetry.
In India, religion, philosophy and myth can not be alienated from their art forms. Dance and music are ingrained to ceremony of any kind. They are most spontaneous and elemental expressions of human emotions.
Indian dance has diverse folk and classical forms. The well-known folk dances are the bhangra of the Punjab, the bihu of Assam, the chhau of Jharkhand, the ghoomar of Rajasthan, the dandiya and garba of Gujarat, the Yakshagana of Karnataka and lavani of Maharashtra and Dekhnni of Goa.
Folk dances are always linked with different social ceremony like harvest, birth, marriage, and pleasing gods for favourable natural and social conditions. Both men and women take part in folk dances although men predominantly do some dance forms, which are related to fishing and hunting. No dance form is complete without music and singers and drummers.
The graceful Indian classical dance forms are: bharatanatyam of Tamil Nadu, kathak of Uttar Pradesh, kathakali and mohiniattam of Kerala, kuchipudi of Andhra Pradesh, manipuri of Manipur, odissi of the state of Odisha and the sattriya of Assam.
In classical dance forms, navarasa is extensively implemented. While Kathakali specializes more in make up and facial expression, Kathak on the other hand specializes in the intricate footwork. Bharatnatyam’s virtuosity lies on the perfect balance of all aesthetics, - facial expressions as well as hand and foot gestures. Perhaps it is one of the most graceful and exquisite dance forms in India.
Indian music has two principal streams, - Hindustani or the North Indian style music and Carnatic or the South Indian style music. The Carnatic and the Hindustani music have some features in common as their heritage and philosophy are essentially the same. However their ragas and their articulation are usually distinctive. All Indian musicians belong to a particular gharana (house) or school. Each gharana has its own traditions and manner of rendition and these styles are fiercely guarded and maintained. Some of the well-known gharanas are those of Delhi, Agra, Gwalior and Jaipur. Stalwarts from Hindustani classical music are Pandit Ravi Shankar, Pandit Amjad Ali Khan, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Pandit Jasraj, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Rashid Khan, Pandit Bismillah Khan to name a few. The most notable and revered Carnatic musicians are M. Balamurali Krishna, Damal Krishnaswamy Pattammal, M. L. Vasanthakumari, M. S. Subbulakshmi.
Puppets from coastal Karnataka
Bhangra, Lavani, Dandiya, Pandavani, Music of Rajasthan, Bauls of Bengal, Garba, Dollu_Kunitha are a few of the many folk music of India. Most of the folk music is accompanied by dance and they are generally didactic as well as celebration of some special occasion. Folk music and dance bring together the local inhabitants to mingle with each other, relax and enjoy the entertainment.
Collection of string instruments
Indian_pop more popularly known as IndiPop is enormously popular with Indian people of all ages. Indian film songs, regional language songs, Urdu Ghazal, Qawwali, Bhajan, are also distinguished genres of music which delights the listeners with their rhythm, lyrics, tune, composition and emotions.
The history of Indian theatre goes back to more than 5000 years. Natya_Shastra written by Bharat Muni was the ancient treatise on Indian theatre. One of the oldest surviving theatre traditions of the world is the 2,000 year old Kutiyattam of Kerala. It strictly follows the Natya shastra convention. Theatre in India started as a narrative form such as singing, dancing and reciting. Gradually this narrative form evolved and adapted to the ever-changing life of people and flourished as a distinct and independent form of expression.
Indian theatre has a deep-rooted relation with Indian epics and Indian mythologies and has thus witnessed the change in tradition. The forms of Indian theatre are therefore varied and can be broadly classified into six different genres like Classical Indian dance drama, traditional Indian theatre, Indian Folk Theatre, Indian Puppet theatre, Modern Indian theatre and the Indian Street Theatre. Forms may differ, yet every form of Indian theatre carries the essence of the rich cultures and customs of India.
Few percussion instruments
Bhavai (strolling players) is a popular folk theatre form of Gujarat while Jatra has been popular in Bengal, Swang, is another folk theatre form popular in Haryana, and Madhya Pradesh which is dialogue-oriented rather than movement-oriented. Yakshagana is a very popular theatre art in Karnataka. It is semi-classical in nature and involves music and songs based on carnatic music. Its magnificent costumes, intricate make up, rich embellishment and elaborate headgears characterize this form of folk theatre. The storylines are based on the Mahabharata and Ramayana. It also employs spoken dialogue in-between its songs that gives it a more rustic folk art flavour.
Puppetry is a very old entertainment form in India which traces back its root and origin to 5th century BC. The puppets dressed in colourful clothes and accompanied by vibrant narrator was a source of joy and amazement to villagers where this form of folk theatre was most popular. Puppetry in olden times was chiefly a media for entertainment; it not only popularized story telling through the means of puppets, but also strived to educate people and the society of various developments and customs. It was during this time, in Indian puppetry two distinct forms were evolved; while one form was then chiefly evolved as the religious portrayal, the other form mainly made satire and farce as the central theme. There are four major puppetry forms prevalent in India, namely glove, string, rod and shadow.
Cinema_of_India is perhaps the most sought after entertainment in the modern times. India produces the largest number of films per year and in various regional languages. Hindi films or Bollywood are popular not only in India but all over the world. Indian expatriates and other nationalities enjoy Bollywood and other Indian films. Apart from regional films made in the regional languages, many English films are also being made in India these days to cater to the taste of Indians living abroad and a broader populace of other nationalities.
Various folk drums
The first Indian-made feature film (3700 feet long) was released in 1913. It was made by Dadasaheb Phalke and was called Raja Harishchandra. Based on a story from the Mahabharata it was a stirring film concerned with honor, sacrifice and mighty deeds. From then on many "mythologicals" were made and took India by storm. Although the majority of the films produced in India are generically called Masala movies, that is movies which have romance, song, dance, action, comedy, drama and melodrama mixed together are the biggest component of the film industry in India, there is also a prominent market for Parallel Cinema or Art films. The style and content of these films are distinctly different from the mainstream Indian films. Art films are realistic in nature and strive to portray the reality of the socio-political scenario of India.
Films, especially the mainstream movies are integral part of many Indians. That is their means of relaxation and an escape from everyday struggle for life and stress, may it be from every strata of the society. The songs and dance shot in exotic locations, in and outside India give a glimpse of the outside world. Art films on the contrary cater to a very niche group, who enjoys film as a serious art, a medium to highlight the society, without any frills and improbable or unrealistic storyline. Yet many of these art films have gained huge commercial success and won many accolades in India and abroad. The neo-realist filmmakers were the Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray, closely followed by Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak, Shyam Benegal, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, K. Viswanath and Girish Kasaravalli. Ray's films include The Apu Trilogy, consisting of Pather Panchali (1955), Aparajito (1956) and The World of Apu (1959). The three films won major prizes at the Cannes, Berlin and Venice Film Festivals, and are frequently listed among the greatest films of all time.
There are numerous organisations that strive to bring forth various performing arts to people. While some art-forms are still popular and flourishing, some others like puppetry and tribal dances are dwindling down. Endeavors should be made to retain and preserve this rich heritage of exquisite performing arts in India.