Curtains went up on the 17th State-level Veer Surendra Sai drama competition at Aranyak Manch here on Tuesday. Organised by Yuba Udayan at an estimated budget of `2.25 lakh, 21 plays on burning issues affecting the society will be staged during the seven-day annual festival.
Since its initial form of Jatra which was once the only source of entertainment and even finds mention in the autobiography of Rabindranath Tagore, the genre of stage play has seen many ups and downs. It continues to be the only platform for artistes to display and test their skill on performing art. While it is facing a trying time with the art form losing its presence in many places, it has witnessed a revival in Western Odisha with Yuba Udayan of Sambalpur leading the movement since 1977.
Artistes say that drama was part of cultural life of Sambalpur where it evolved on the stage of GM College. Many organisations had made it an annual event and both exhibition and competition shows, which drew huge crowd, were organised. It reached its peak in 1970s, led by organisations like Natya Kala Parishad and Steetee.
With the entry of television during the Asian Games of 1982, drama was pushed into oblivion. However, fresh initiative of Natya Kala Parishad saw resurgence of drama in the late 1980s and with support from Srushtee, drama held the centre stage till Yuba Udayan provided the much needed impetus by organising the competition in 1996 and since then there has been no looking back.
Around 398 dramas have been staged till date during the annual event. Scripts are received ahead of the festival and a jury comprising eminent artistes select the scripts to be staged. Besides laying a thrust on revival of the art form, it also helps in preservation and enrichment of Sambalpuri language.
Maintaining that the present writers and directors are able to relate with the audience with a sense of identification with the character, eminent stage artist and economist Dr Dilip Panda said people should realise that drama is an educative media and not entertainment media. He said this fact has kept the common man away from drama.
However, the trend is changing with advancement in music and lighting. Dr Panda said drama has changed over the years and expressed happiness that it is catching up with changing times.