Ratan Thiyam

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Ratan Thiyam
Born (1948-01-20) 20 January 1948 (age 73)
Alma materNational School of Drama
OccupationPlaywright, Theatre Director
Founder Chorus Repertory Theatre, 1976
Years active1974–present
Known forBirbhum Blossom Theatre
AwardsSangeet Natak Akademi Award in Direction, 1987
Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship 2012

Ratan Thiyam (born 20 January 1948) is an Indian playwright and theatre director, and the winner of Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1987, one of leading figures of the "theatre of roots" movement in Indian theatre, which started in the 1970s.[1] Also known as Thiyam Nemai, Ratan Thiyam is known for writing and staging plays that use ancient Indian theatre traditions and forms in a contemporary context.[2] A former painter, and proficient in direction, design, script and music, Thiyam is often considered one of leading contemporary theatre gurus.[3]

He worked as Chairperson of the prestigious National School of Drama from 2013-2017. He had also worked as Vice-Chairman of Sangeet Natak Akademi before joining NSD. He has also worked as Director of National School of Drama from 1987 to 1989. He is also the founder-director of Chorus Repertory Theatre, formed on the outskirts of Imphal, Manipur in 1976.[4] He was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in Direction in 1987, given by Sangeet Natak Akademi, India's National Academy for Music, Dance and Drama, and the Padma Shri given by Government of India in 1989. He was awarded the 2012 Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship, the highest honour in the performing arts conferred by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, India's National Academy for Music, Dance and Drama. In the year 2013, Ratan Thiyam receives honorary D.lit from Assam University, Silchar.[5]

Early life and education[edit]

Ratan Thiyam graduated from National School of Drama, New Delhi in 1974.[6]


Chorus Repertory Theatre founded by Ratan Thiyam in 1976

He went on to set up a theatre group called Chorus Repertory Theatre[7] in Imphal, Manipur in 1976. He was also briefly the director of National School of Drama (NSD), New Delhi (1987–88).[1]

His production of Ajneya's Uttar Priyadarshi in Meitei was staged at the 1st Bharat Rang Mahotsav (BRM), the annual theatre festival of National School of Drama (NSD), Delhi in 1999,[8] his presentation of Kalidasa's epic poem Ritusamharam was closing production of 4th BRM in 2002,[9] subsequently the 10th BRM in 2008, which also marked the golden jubilee of NSD, opened at Kamani Auditorium, New Delhi, with a performance was Prologue, the first part of his Manipur Trilogy, when all past alumni has gathered for the festival.[10][11][12] The 12th BRM in January 2010 featured Ratan Thiyam's When we Dead Awaken.[13]

The plays of Ratan Thiyam[edit]

His works profess a deep concern for social welfare and spiritual yearnings in the midst of the political chaos in the modern world. His plays infuse rationalised and multifaceted analysis of myriad perspectives. Using ingenious theatrical stagecraft, his plays are tinged with literary beauty and meaning. Most of Ratan Thiyam's plays are thematically Indianised and are profound plays with universal appeal.

His works are strongly influenced by Natya Sastra, an Indian theatre style propounded by Bharata during the second century B.C., as also ancient Greek drama, and the Noh theatre of Japan. His approach to theatre has been shaped by years of study under the tutelage of several major exponents of the traditional Meitei performing arts. Thiyam is also known for his use of traditional martial arts, of Thang-Ta in his plays, such as in Urubhangam (Broken Thigh), of Sanskrit playwright Bhāsa itself based on an episode from epic, the Mahabharata, which along with Chakravyuh (Army Formation) is considered one of his finest works.[14] In 1986, he adapted Jean Anouilh's "Antigone" as Lengshonnei, a comment on the personal behaviour of politicians, failing to handle political situation in the state.[1] Uttar Priyadarshi (The Final Beatitude), an adaptation of Hindi verse play by playwright and poet Agyeya in 1996, based on a story of redemption of King Ashoka, a man's struggle against his own inner dark side and a plea for peace, knowing its impact on future generation. The play has since travelled to many parts of the South Asia, Australia and the US.[15][16]

His play Andha Yug (The Blind Age), known for creating an intense and intimate experience, around the epochal theme, was famously staged in an open-air performance, at Tonga, Japan, on 5 August 1994, a day before the forty-ninth anniversary of Atomic Holocaust in Hiroshima.[17]

His major plays include Ritusamharam: The work seeks solace and sanity amidst chaos and violence of today's world.[18]

In 2014, Thiyam opened a Manipuri adaptation of Macbeth, translocated to a historical Meitei context, with names of characters unchanged. It was the opening act at the 2019 inaugural Bangladesh International Theatre Festival.[19]

List of Plays[edit]

'The Shrine', the main theatre of Ratan Thiyam's Chorus Repertory, Imphal


In popular culture[edit]

Some Roots Grow Upwards a 2003 documentary by Kavita Joshi and Malati Rao, was based on the life and work of Ratan Thiyam, especially his political ideologies, and his use of theatre as medium of political protest.[34]


  1. ^ a b c Cody, p. 1348
  2. ^ Thiyam Nemai Archived 6 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Theater in Review – 'Nine Hills One Valley' by Jason Zinoman, New York Times, 14 October 2006.
  4. ^ The world's a stage: Theatredoyen Ratan Thiyam on how he conquers space The Hindu, 30 December 2008.
  5. ^ "India needs many more regional schools of theatre: NSD chairperson Ratan Thiyam". Zee News. 23 December 2013. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  6. ^ NSD Graduates Archived 18 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ chorusimphal
  8. ^ "All the world's classics, on a stage". The Indian Express. 18 March 1999.
  9. ^ Kavita Nagpal (16 April 2002). "BHARAT RANG MAHOTSAV : A RETROSPECTIVE". Press Information Bureau (Govt. of India).
  10. ^ National School of Drama celebrates golden jubilee in style The Economic Times, 12 January 2008.
  11. ^ Manisha Jha (27 December 2007). "Celebrating 50 years of NSD". The Hindu. Chennai, India. Archived from the original on 30 December 2007.
  12. ^ "The Graduates". Indian Express. 28 December 2007. Archived from the original on 4 October 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2010.
  13. ^ Anima, P. (2 January 2010). "Talking theatre". The Hindu. Chennai, India.
  14. ^ India – Ratan Thiyam The World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre: Asia/Pacific, by Don Rubin. Published by Taylor & Francis, 2001. ISBN 0-415-26087-6. Page 146.
  15. ^ a b Review: Uttarpriyadarshi Archived 5 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine by Renee Renouf, ballet magazine, December 2000,
  16. ^ Margo Jefferson (27 October 2000). "Next Wave Festival Review; In Stirring Ritual Steps, Past and Present Unfold". New York Times.
  17. ^ Dharwadker, p. 196
  18. ^ Profile at manipuronline Archived 6 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Vikram Phukan (29 June 2019). "Desi drama, subcontinental style". ‘’The Hindu’’. Mumbai, India. Retrieved 29 June 2019.
  20. ^ Dharwadker, p. 105
  21. ^ Asia society Archived 26 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ "Real art attacks the wrong system" and director-playwright Ratan Thiyam's plays bear testimony to his words The Hindu, 30 January 2005
  23. ^ Ratan Thiyam at Fordham University Archived 9 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Bharatrangmohotsav (theater Festival) 2008, National School of Drama, New Delhi, India.
  25. ^ Delhi Ibsen Festival : When We Dead Awaken – Play
  26. ^ Another play by Ratan Thiyam, another astonishing splash. The Telegraph, 6 March 2009.
  27. ^ "The National School of Drama's Bharat Rang Mahotsav... Featuring 96 productions..." MumbaiTheatreGuide.com. 12 January 2012. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
  28. ^ "SNA: List of Akademi Awardees". Sangeet Natak Akademi Official website. Archived from the original on 27 July 2011.
  29. ^ which he returned in July 2001
  30. ^ "Padma Awards". Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.
  31. ^ "Ratan Thiyam Received Bharat Muni Samman". odisha.360.batoi.com. 2011. Retrieved 28 December 2012. Ratan Thiyam, the doyen of theatre was awarded Bharat Muni Samman for the year 2011
  32. ^ "Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowships and Akademi Awards 2012" (PDF). Press Information Bureau, Govt. of India. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
  33. ^ "Ratan Thiyam – the doyen of Indian theatre". India-north-east.com. Retrieved 29 November 2013.
  34. ^ Open Frame 2003– August 21–27 2003 India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.

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