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Indian People's Theatre Association

Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA) is the oldest association of theatre-artists in India. IPTA was formed in 1943 pre independence India, during which it promoted themes related to the Indian freedom struggle. Its goal was to bring cultural awakening among the people of India.[1] It is the cultural wing of the Communist Party of India.[2]


A 1994 stamp dedicated to the 50th anniversary of IPTA

Bangalore unit of IPTA was formed in 1941.[3] IPTA was formed on 25 May 1943 at the National conference of theater artists held at the Marwari school, Bombay in response to the need for theater artists to become part of the Indian freedom struggle. Its origins lay in the first Progressive Writer's Association Conference that was held in 1936, the establishment of the Youth Cultural Institute at Calcutta in 1940, and the setting up of the People's Theatre in Bangalore by Anil De’ Silva in 1941. Its initial members consisted of various progressive cultural troupes, theatre groups and other progressive cultural activists. The name People's Theatre was suggested by the renowned scientist Homi Jahangir Bhabha who was in turn inspired by Romain Rolland's book on the concepts of People's Theatre.[4]

Its initial activities included street plays organized by Binoy Roy of the Bengal Cultural Squad to inform people of the 1942 manmade famine in Bengal. Their ski included a choir ‘Bhookha Hai Bengal’ created by Vamik Jaunpuri and other songs and plays. The squad included musician Prem Dhawan, drum player Dashrath Lal, singer Reva Roy and actress Usha Dutt. Motivated by this squad, several other cultural groups were formed including the Agra Cultural Squad. IPTA was subsequently formed to organize these local groups at the national level.[4]

Ideologically these groups were inspired by the left movement and the then General Secretary of the Communist Party of India, P.C. Joshi and the General Secrtetary of the Progressive Writers’ Association Sajjad Zaheer.[4]

Initial membersEdit

Some of the initial members of the group were Prithviraj Kapoor, Bijon Bhattacharya, Balraj Sahni, Ritwik Ghatak, Utpal Dutt, Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, Salil Chowdhury, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Jyotirindra Moitra, Niranjan Singh Maan, S. Tera Singh Chan, Jagdish Faryadi, Khalili Faryadi, Rajendra Raghuvanshi Safdar Mir, Hasan Premani,Amiya Bose, Sudhin Dasgupta etc. The group was formed in 1942, in the background of the Second World War, with Bengal famine of 1943 and starvation deaths in India on the one hand and repression by the colonial masters in the wake of the Quit India Movement and the aggression by the fascist powers on the Soviet Union on the other. An All India People's Theatre Conference was held in Mumbai in 1943 where the group presented its idea and objective of representing the crisis of the time through the medium of theatre and to help people understand their rights and duties. This conference led to the formation of committees of IPTA across India. The movement hit not only theatres, but also cinema and music in Indian languages.Now it is the cultural wing of Communist Party of India (CPI)[5]


The most important of the dramas were Nabanna (Harvest). Nabanna is a folk-cultural festival of Bengal to celebrate the harvest. This Bengali drama, written by Bijon Bhattacharya and directed by Sombhu Mitra, portrayed the evils of the Bengal famine of 1943

Other dramas and filmsEdit

Nava Jiboner Gaan (Song of New Life) by Jyotirindra Moitra and the film Dharti Ke Lal (Children of the Earth) by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas followed Nabanna in addressing the needs of the people. These performances were characteristic for their vivid, stark portrayal of the suffering of the masses. Similar productions were carried out all over India, like Deshasathi in Marathi which was about the attack on the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany; Prarambham in Telugu; and Zubeida directed by Balraj Sahni and based on the story of a Muslim girl from Malabar. Manikuntala Sen, the fire band woman of left politics acted in this play along with Gopal Halder, who later became an educationist.

Natya Samaroh by IPTA, Chhattisgarh, India

Break up and legacyEdit

Though the group was temporarily dispersed by the Indian National Congress government using police violence and repressive measures in 1947, its main members continued to carry the legacy of IPTA by forming several groups with similar ideology. Ahindra Chowdhuri, Sombhu Mitra and Tripti Mitra were the leading members of the group Bohurupee. Raktakarabi, Tahar Nam Ti Ranjana, Char Adhyay (written by Rabindranath Tagore) were some of the earlier productions of Bohurupee. Utpal Dutt led another faction of artists and went to create classics like Tiner Talowar and Kallol. IPTA Mumbai was another offshoot that has existed over the last six decades and continue to produce dramas till date.[6] IPTA offshoots exist in other parts of India as well.[7]

Group theaters like Nandikar, Spandan of Kolkata still produce their dramas often in the line of the IPTA movement, and recently there has been effort to start a similar movement inspired by the IPTA.[8]

The Delhi-based theatre company Jana Natya Manch, best known for its street theatre, also emerged from the IPTA in 1973. Noted film director, Ritwik Ghatak made a Bengali film, Komal Gandhar (1961) set around IPTA theatre group.

There are many groups which were regionally floated and still continue the legacy of IPTA both Pre and Post independence. Some of the groups which have grown to be biggest of theater groups in India.

Few Prominent ones are: Praja natya mandali – Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, Samudaaya in Karnataka.

IPTA in West BengalEdit

At present IPTA West Bengal is a running organisation led by IPTA West Bengal State Committee. The Secretary is Sri Gora Ghosh, President Sri Hiranmoy Ghosal, Asst. Secretary Sri Ashim Bandyopadhyay. There are many cultural personalities like mass singer Kankan Bhattacharjee, Sankar Mukherjee, Tapan Hazra,Pijus Sarkar, Suvendu Maity, Abhoy Dasgupta etc. There are 19 District Committees under this organisation. No. of Artist members 7000 approx. IPTA W B has been reorganised in its 3rd conference held on 1967 at Kolkata Bagbazar reading room Library.[9]

Hundreds of dramas have been produced still today since 1967. Such as Bis e June by Biru Mukhopadhyay, Bastav Sastra and Buno Hans by Hiren Bhattacharya, Haraner Nat Jamai by Sisir Sen, Telangana,Jowa and Fulwali by Basudeb Dasgupta, Fatik chander Swapnaguli, Hanadaar,Adab, Judhistirer Narak Darsan, Haripadar Panja Larai (Street Drama) by Ashim Bandyopadhyay. Abelay Amritakatha, Jaban Bandi (Street Drama), Chhoto Bakulpurer jatri, Aaj O Itihaas, Tarapadar Maa, Ganpat Kahar, by Sudip Sarkar. Matador, No Problem, Light House by jayanta Chakraborty. Ramdhanu, Aami Krishna, Virus, Ananta Yatra by Tapan Hazra etc.

IPTA in Raigarh, ChhattisgarhEdit

IPTA Raigarh was established in 1982 during the first state conference of IPTA which was organized by the Raigarh unit in 1982. Since then Raigarh unit has been active and practicing theatre in this small district of Chhattisgarh (earlier Madhya Pradesh).

In 1994, when the Golden Jubilee of IPTA was celebrated nationwide, this unit decided to celebrate the Golden Jubilee by organizing a five-day theatre festival during the month of December. Although meant to be a one-off event, it was very well received and later on, it was decided to continue this as an annual event. This is how the National Theatre Festival was born and conceived.

The same year IPTA was reorganized and it spread its activities, started imparting training and updating artists by means of organizing theatre workshops every year for youth as well as for children. Since 1995, theatre stalwarts like Arun Pandey, Sanjay Upadhyay, Suman Kumar, Gautam Mazumdar, Devendra Raj Ankur, Ranjeet Kapoor, Akhilesh Khanna, Neeraj Wahal, Praveen Gunjan & Anjana Puri have conducted workshops and trained our artists.

Besides organizing theatre workshops and festivals, IPTA Raigarh started participating in various festivals to showcase their productions in different cities like Delhi, Allahabad, Jabalpur, Raipur, Aurangabad, Bhopal, Patna, Gaya, Sagar, Ratlam among the few.

In 2001, IPTA Raigarh registered itself as ‘IPTA Center for Cultural Resources and Training’ with the Registrar of firms & societies, Government of India.

"IPTA Center for cultural resources & training" has emerged as one of the pro-active theatre groups in Chhattisgarh State.

Artistes of the group, including child artistes, have acted in a film "Chutakan Ki Mahabharat" produced by Children's Film Society Of India and Directed by Sankalp Meshram, which won the National Award for the Best Children's Film in 2005, conferred by the Government of India.

IPTA Raigarh also publishes its annual Magazine "Rankarm" which is endorsed by Kendriya Hindi Nideshalaya and is being distributed throughout the country with the help of the same. This magazine has been published annually since 2003.

IPTA in PunjabEdit

The Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA) movement in Punjab greatly altered the theatre as it was reoriented toward playing a greater role as an instrument of social change. The IPTA movement in Punjab brought out artists like Shiela Bhatia, Balraj Sahni, Balwant Gargi, Niranjan Singh MaanTera Singh Chan, Joginder Bahrla, Pandit Khalili, theatre workers Parkash Kaur, her younger sister Surinder Kaur, and Amarjit Gurdaspuri, the famous folk singers in the service of people's concerns. They made serious efforts to take Punjabi theatre and folk culture to the masses.

IPTA in AssamEdit

The Assam chapter of IPTA, which worked for the development of humanity through culture, was formed in 1947. Hemango Biswas, the founder secretary of the chapter, worked with some of the prominent personalities of the state such as Jyotiprasad Agarwala, Bishnu Prasad Rabha and Dr Bhupen Hazarika among others. Bhupen Hazarika began close association with IPTA soon after returning from the USA in the 1950s. The golden period of IPTA, from 1952 to 1962, coincided with the golden days of Hazarika's musical career. It was during this period that he composed some of his immortal numbers, including Dola Re Dola, Rongmon Macholoi Gol, Manuhe Manuhor Babe and others. Biswas and Hazarika jointly organized the third Assam conference of IPTA in 1955, when the likes of Balraj Sahni, Salil Chowdhury and Hemanta Mukherjee participated, among others.[10][11] Some of the famous plays presented by IPTA were Sonali Dhanani, Seujia Kuhipaat, Tofaan, Navaprabhat, Sapasalor Seka etc and many shadow plays like Poharaloi, Amar Jatra, 15 Augustor Ahban and Tirut Singh.

The Assam chapter celebrated the birth centenary of its founder secretary Hemango Biswas in 2012.[12] On the occasion of platinum jubilee of IPTA, the chapter organized a drama festival on 11–12 March in 2019 at District Library, Guwahati. Two plays Laalchurni and Coffee Housot Apeksha respectively were staged during the two day event.[13][14]

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Theatre and Activism in the 1940s. Essay by Zohra Sehgal Crossing boundaries, by Geeti Sen. Orient Blackswan, 1998. ISBN 81-250-1341-5. pp 31–39.


  1. ^ Bengali Theatre and Performing Arts. Article in
  2. ^ Lisa Lowe; David Lloyd (1997). The Politics of Culture in the Shadow of Capital. Duke University Press. pp. 454–. ISBN 978-0-8223-2046-3.
  3. ^ "Indian People's Theatre Association – Oxford Reference". doi:10.1093/acref/9780198601746.001.0001/acref-9780198601746-e-1898. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  4. ^ a b c "About IPTA and its history". IPTA. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  5. ^ "Constitution of IPTA". IPTA. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  6. ^ Indian People's Theatre Association. Article in
  7. ^ Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay (June 2005). A stage for social commitment. Frontline. Volume 22, Issue 13.
  8. ^ Indian Peoples Theatre Association revival by Spandan
  9. ^ John D.H. Downing (2010). Encyclopedia of Social Movement Media. SAGE publications. p. 359. ISBN 978-0761926887.
  10. ^ "'Bhupen Hazarika and Hemango Biswas: The soulful music that calmed Assam six decades ago'".
  11. ^ "'Forgotten Tale: How a Troupe of Artists Healed Assam After the 1960 'Language Riots".
  12. ^ "'IPTA tribute to folk artiste - Hemanga Biswas's birth centenary celebrations begin'".
  13. ^ "'IPTA platinum jubilee'".
  14. ^ "'IPTA Drama Festival Held at Guwahati'".

External linksEdit