- A form of theater practised in the northern states of India.The genre is a modern development of the 16th-century Svanga.The moralistic plays, which are performed to mark special occasionssuch as a wedding or a birth, are generally melodramas or romanceswith stories taken from history, folklore, and mythology. Most troupeshave from 10 to 12 actors, usually lower-caste Hindus; female performerswere introduced in the 1930s. Players collect donations from the spectatorsduring the performance. The musicians, who are normally Muslims, playthe harmonium, drums, bell-metal cymbals, and, more recently, theclarinet. Plays are usually presented on a raised stage in an openfield, courtyard, or tent.
Modern Nautanki style was pioneered in the cities ofHathras and Kanpur. The Hathras version was popularized in the 19thcentury by Indarman and his disciple Natharam, who established a centrewhere actors trained under strict master-teachers and published anddistributed scripts. The Hathras actor-singers, who use a distinctivehigh-pitched style, perform on a nearly bare platform stage, the audiencebeing seated in a three-sided arena space.
Kanpur style was created in the 20th century by Sri KrishnaPahalvan, who defied the rule that only disciples of recognized master-teacherscould enter the profession. Kanpur productions emphasize plot ratherthan singing, feature detailed sets, and use a proscenium-style stagewith wings.