'Criminals' Performing for Change: Budhan Theatre´s fight against injustice and police atrocity

  • Swati Bhatt School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies, Victoria University of Wellington


This article is about the Budhan Theatre, located in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India and known for using Street Theatre as a medium to bring about social change. Budhan’s street theatre is a new kind of theatre which brings individuals from the stigmatized community to the stage and aims to raise consciousness and demand social acceptance for them in the process. The article examines Budhan Theatre as a movement that brings about socio-political change in India and discusses its performances and their implications in light of performance studies. The discussion presented here is based on my observations, interviews with members of Budhan theatre, and print media coverage. I have been connected to Budhan theatre for the past five years through conducting this research, facilitating some of the children's workshops, talking to Chhara community members, and observing the group and their activities closely. The strategy of Budhan Theatre, which underlies
each of its plays, is to highlight social problems by expressing people’s situations. The ideology and propaganda behind the performances are quite similar to those of other indigenous theatres in the world: to make the audience feel culpable about the plight of the oppressed by presenting their victimhood. The theatre
company performs these plays throughout India and supports and fights for other denotified and nomadic tribes who are facing similar problems.

Author Biography

Swati Bhatt, School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies, Victoria University of Wellington

Swati Bhatt is a Ph.D. candidate in Theatre in the School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English Literature (2008) and completed her Masters in English Language Teaching in 2010. She was awarded the degree of M.Phil from the Central University of Gujarat for her research project, “The Socio-political Implications of Street Theatre in India: A Comparative Study of Jana Natya Manch and Budhan Theatre” in September 2012. She is a teaching assistant in the Theatre program at Victoria University. Her research interests lie in indigenous theatre performances and their reception at performing arts festivals, as well as actor training. Swati has performed as a lead actress in several theatrical performances as well as the TV-series “Jindagi Ek Safar” broadcasted on the National Television Channel - DoorDarshan during 2010-11 in India.