Street Play: An art before cinema

Entertainment has taken a lot of different forms throughout the history of world. The most recent form of entertainment which is prevalent from the 20th century is cinema. Before that the only form of entertainment was street plays and street shows which were found in order to entertain and educate people about various issues. This is usually done by depicting scenes from famous Indian epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata.

In the recent years, the art of street play is at the verge of extinctions. Only a few festivals in and around Tamilnadu still has the custom of arranging a street play before the commencement of a festival. These plays usually start late at night and will commence till morning. A group of artists will form the group and they perform many tasks like writing dialog, story , song and they also choreograph dance moves to entertain people.

In order to document a street play event, last year a bunch of photographers including me were doing some research and heard that a village named krishnapuram near to poondi is going to host a street play event. We reached krishnapuram at around 8 PM in the night. We were having a chat with the locals about the festival and the street play . They told us that the event will begin only after 10.30. At around 10, the artists reached the venue and we started clicking photographs of how are they preparing themselves for the play.

The head of the street play group said that they are going to perform “Panchali sabhadham“, which is the story of draupadai or panchali the wife of pandavas and her oath to destroy kauravas , as they tried to undress her in front of the hastinapura ministry.

we photographed the event till 2 in the morning and the thing that amazed me the most is their energy level. They continuously sing, dance, change costumes till the play is over. As I said earlier, this series was photographed last year. But i didn’t post them all because my previous camera doesn’t perform so well under low light.  The images will be grainy and dull. But this is my small effort to portray the dedication and hard work of the street artists


The colors used by the artists for make up


An artist getting ready for the play


The musician of the troop is tuning the instruments


Artists getting ready for the play


The musician playing harmonium during the play


The stage


The clown entertaining the crowd


The clown is a fictional character that comes throughout the play


The clown dancing to the tunes


change of scene is often done by covering the stage with a piece of cloth


The lead male character of the play “yudhishtira”


A male artist dressed like panchali


Yudhishtira taking a nap when the other scene is being performed

I don know how far i have succeeded in documenting the event. But if you can get a glimpse of the soon to be extinct native art form, I think i have succeeded in my endeavor.

6 Replies to “Street Play: An art before cinema”

  1. Wonderful tribute to Street Plays and artistes whose livelihoods are being threatened by the arrival of Films, television and other media. What you photographers have done is a movement actually. Cheers to you for promoting this form of art. Next time CBC should also involve in this noble gesture.

    Kudos to you and your team.

    Joy always,

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