A stage is all you need to tell a story


Amidst the scenic beauty and geopolitical complexities of Jammu and Kashmir lies a thriving theatre scene, between applauded gatherings to spider webbed empty stages, Jammu and Kashmir is struggling to find an audience that not only enjoys theatrical performances but promotes it to another level. Parent to a centuries old theatre form called Bhand Pather Jammu and Kashmir has a lot to offer into the region’s socio-cultural fabric. Through a data-driven perspective, one can dig into the complexity of theatre in Jammu and Kashmir while learning about its history, current issues, and audience expectations.
The history of theatre in Jammu and Kashmir stretches back to the 1930s, with a peak in popularity lasting into the 1950s. However, contemporary theatre groups face myriad challenges in sustaining this legacy. A decline in paid shows, limited active theatre groups throughout the year, and a lack of revolutionary passion for theatre, exacerbated by the influence of social media on audience engagement is evident in the current time.
Understanding audience perspectives is pivotal in shaping the future of theatre in Jammu and Kashmir. A survey analysis revealed a mixed landscape of awareness and engagement. While 61.9% of respondents are aware of theatre performances in the region, only 40% attend them. However, among those who attend, there’s a balanced distribution between occasional and frequent attendees, indicating a potential audience base for regular performances. Diverse expectations from theatre culture emerged, including emphasis on historical, religious, and social issues, preservation of folk culture, and motivating youth towards righteous paths.
In a newspaper coverage analysis of the content related to theatre in Jammu and Kashmir that provided insights into the nature and frequency of theatre-related coverage in The Daily Excelsior throughout 2023, play performances dominated the discourse, indicating a concerted effort to promote theatrical productions. Coverage of street plays, workshops, festivals, and general theatre information underscored a holistic approach to theatre journalism. Monthly distribution revealed peaks in March and November, possibly coinciding with heightened cultural activities. The quarterly overview suggested sustained engagement throughout the year.
While challenges like funding constraints and declining audience interest loom large, there’s optimism in grassroots efforts and community engagement initiatives. To revitalize the theatre ecosystem, concerted action is needed. Theatre groups must innovate in content and engagement strategies to resonate with modern audiences. Government assistance should be supplemented by private efforts and community-based solutions. Collaboration among theatrical practitioners, media outlets, and educational institutions may promote a culture of appreciation and involvement. Developing talent and supporting cultural diversity is critical. Embracing local customs and storytelling styles may add to the theatrical tapestry, making it more inclusive and representational of the region’s culture.
Theatre may cross regional boundaries and reach new audiences by utilising technology, social media, and conventional mediums. Theatre in Jammu and Kashmir is at a crossroads, dealing with obstacles while harbouring enormous promise. Through data-driven insights and concerted action, stakeholders can pave the way for a healthy and resilient theatre ecosystem that will enrich the region’s cultural environment for future generations. Consider this as a call for help or an invitation to be a part of such beautiful artform’s revival in its homeland, the land of immense beauty and culture, the land which has seen a lot and a stage is all it needs to tell a story.
(The author is student of P. G. Diploma in Digital Media at IIIMC Jammu)

editorial article
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