Nautanki in the time of Independence Struggle: the Tangled History of Sangits and Akharas

Rittvika Singh

Delhi College of Arts & Commerce, University of Delhi, India. Orcid Id: Email:

  Volume 9, Number 2, 2017 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v9n2.27

Received May 30, 2017; Revised July14, 2017; Accepted July 20, 2017; Published August 16, 2017.


Nau?ank? theatre of North India is a popular cultural institution that offers an opportunity to document the history of the un-imagined community. However, the historical accounts of this theatre are either obscure or they present a very limited view of Nautanki. During the decades of India’s struggle for independence, Nau?ank? became a platform for registering protest. While there are well corroborated accounts of the progressive Indian People’s Theatre Association involvement in mobilizing the masses for struggle, there appears a regrettable gap that withholds the process of making informed assumptions while studying Nautanki’s participation. Through the examples drawn from the two different akaharas (schools) of Nau?ank?– Hathras and Kanpur, this paper attempts to highlight the existence of lacunas that mar the historiography of the lesser known, hence exposing the loopholes in the purported idea of writing history from the margins. In the process it also describes the ways in which Nautanki has exhibited the potential of being a vital forum for protest, though its image in the general perception is merely of an obscene medium of entertainment. Apart from discussing the few available records that document Nautanki’s participation, the paper constructs its premise on the interviews and material collected during the field visits in Allahabad and adjoining areas which have supplemented the inferences and observations drawn.

Key words: Nautanki, Alternate Historiography, Popular culture, Independence struggle, Masses.

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