Nautanki is a folk theatre art form. The origins of this operatic theatre performance has been lost in the sands of time, but its format has evolved and developed through the centuries.
Nautanki is still performed in rural parts of South Asia, in which music and chorus align with grassroots acting and makeshift props to present a form of entertainment for inhabitants of villages and small towns. Some groups continue their nomadic journeys through rural areas, revising their repertoires with each visit. And after entertaining their eager audience, they leave behind fans who will return to applaud their next performance in a few months’ time.
With tongue in cheek lyrics, clever banter between performers, parody, exaggerated comic and pathos, and stereotypical personalities Nautanki successfully conveyed contemporary social messaging effectively. Sadly Nautanki as an art form is declining as the focus of entertainment moving towards cinema, television and digital technology.
Bollywood, the home of South Asia’s vibrant and ever growing film industry was largely inspired by the Nautanki art form.