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A dramatic history of Bombay theatre

Theatreperson Sunil Shanbag and cultural historian Sharmistha Saha take you through the storied history

The history of Mumbai theatre is incomplete without forms like Marathi Sangeet Natak. (Wikimedia Commons)

TheatreNama with Sunil Shanbag is a monthly series of talks and guided viewings that takes theatre-lovers deep into the history of Indian theatre. Led by the well-known theatreperson, director and documentary film-maker, the first in the series was a unique viewing of the landmark play Sex, Morality, And Censorship, written by Shanta Gokhale and Irawati Karnik and directed by Shanbag. It tells the story of Vijay Tendulkar’s controversial theatre classic, Sakharam Binder.

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This month’s show, Playing To Bombay, is a fund-raiser for TheatreDost, to help out-of-work theatrepersons and support staff who have lost their only source of livelihood during the pandemic, and will see Shanbag and cultural historian Sharmistha Saha from the humanities and social sciences department of the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, mapping Mumbai’s early history, from the setting up of the Bombay Theatre, perhaps the city's first live space for theatrical performances, in 1776 to its famous Grant Road theatre district. The documentary has commentary by Shanbag and Saha, interspewith recordings, interviews and music.

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Listen to Vishnudas Bhave talk about his first impressions of the European Grant Road Theatre in Bombay in 1853, watch a black-face minstrel act by famous American performer Dave Carson, and see how Jyotiba Phule used folk forms like tamasha and powada to talk against caste discrimination.

Video-on-demand; tickets on

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