THE AKSHARA THEATRE was founded in 1972 by Gopal Sharman: playwright, poet, musician, theatre and television director; and his actress wife Jalabala Vaidya, with their daughter, Anasuya Vaidya-Shetty.
The Akshara Theatre is an exquisite arts complex set in just under one acre of land in the heart of New Delhi. It has four performance spaces for live performance equipped with the best lighting and sound equipment augmented a few years ago by a generous grant from the Government of Japan under its Cultural Grassroots Programme. It possesses a library, shooting and editing studios for television with the latest digital equipment, sound studios, workshops for set design, metal work and stone sculpture, as well as a studio for graphics design with computerized desktop publishing, and classrooms where the performing arts are taught to children and young people.
Registered as a non-profit cultural society in 1980 under the name ‘The Akshara National Classical Theatre of India’, the theatre’s endeavour is to present theatre, music and dance in its various spaces on a nightly basis, for a ticket paying audience, so that Indian artists can access their public and earn their living by so doing, and the public, on the other hand can find quality professional live entertainment in a aesthetic ambience throughout the year.
The Akshara’s best-known theatrical production, Gopal Sharman’s contemporary dramatic version of The Ramayana, was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company of Great Britain. Enacted by Jalabala Vaidya in a one woman English language stage version, based on the traditional Indian ‘Katha’ or storytelling style, The Ramayana has been performed more than 2000 times to rave reviews all over the world – including on Broadway in New York; at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC; at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre, one of Britain’s National Theatres, in London; at the National Theatres of Canada and Finland; and at numerous other prestigious venues, like the United Nations Headquarters in New York, where it received a standing ovation. It has been received by superlative critical notices, both in India and abroad. In India, The Ramayana and other Akshara productions have played to packed houses, including in Hyderabad on four occasions when it received an award from the Andhra Pradesh Natya Akademi, and superlative Press and audience reactions in all parts of the country. Other popular Akshara theatre productions include Full Circle, performed in London, Europe and India, the Let’s Laugh… series of political satires, Karma, India Alive, the Bhagavad Gita, a season of Tagore’s Gitanjali and The Kabuliwala and Gandhi’s Gita, a play based on Mahatma Gandhi’s translation of the Gita –written by Gopal Sharman.
Akshara’s recent series of plays based on books by Indian authors, starring Jalabala Vaidya and Sunit Tandon, has presented Tiger, Tiger from R.K. Narayan’s A Tiger for Malgudi, Arun Joshi’s The Strange Case of Billy Biswas, Richard Crasta’s The Revised Kamasutra, The Dollmaker’s Island, Shantaram, Walk, Speed and Comeback, among several others, with great success.
I, Galileo Galilei written by Gopal Sharman, presented in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Centre, was a centrepiece of the 400th celebration of Galileo’s birth.
The Akshara Theatre is not only synonymous with The Ramayana and contemporary theatre, but with television too for its popular series on the national networks. The first of these, India Alive took its 80 million viewers all over the country. Subsequent television programmes have been equally memorable.
The Akshara’s reputation for quality, honesty and a sincere depiction of the Indian classical spirit have made it one of India’s most respected artistic institutions. It is recognised by the Department of Culture and the Sangeet Natak Akademi (Central Academy of the Performing Arts) of the Government of India and the Delhi Government as an eminent cultural institution of the country. The Akshara is registered as a non-profit cultural institution with the Registrar of Societies of the Government of India.