Indianostrum Theatre in Pondicherry

Participations 08.02.2024

The Indianostrum company was founded by Franco-Indian director Koumarane Valavane, a former member of the Théâtre du Soleil. After facing the difficulties of setting up a troupe of just a few actors in Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu (South India) in 2007, Indianostrum settled in 2012 in a small theater, the "Jeanne d'Arc" hall, which for 80 years had been a Pathé cinema. It was the start of an original adventure, which we will come across again in 2016.

Indianostrum has set itself the goal of promoting modern theater in the cultural life of the country, by developing contemporary texts, highlighting the specificities of modern Indian theater, exploring the relationships between traditional forms, and finally overcoming political, social and historical divisions.

In 2013, a fire caused major damage to the theater.
The roof had to be repaired, the electrical system redone, the building renovated...
Despite this situation, in December 2015 Indianostrum welcomed Ariane Mnouchkine and twelve performers from the Théâtre du Soleil, as well as composer Jean-Jacques Lemêtre and some of the musicians, for workshops within its Nomadic School, attracting over 80 "apprentices" from all over India.

The theater lives without subsidies and is experiencing such financial difficulties that it is no longer able to pay the rent and is facing eviction.
Thanks to composer and friend Valérie Joly, we learned about the work of this courageous company and discovered this theater during a trip to Pondicherry in January 2016.

At the same time, and this is a wonderful surprise, he welcomed back Arianne Mnouchkine's troupe for workshops and the first rehearsals of what was to become La Chambre en Inde presented on November 5, 2016 at the Cartoucherie de Vincennes.
When we enter the theater, we discover the entrance invaded by costumes, Arianne busy with her actors in a creative agitation that delights us!
The stage emptied of its sets has given way to inspiration and research work.

At the same time, Koumarane is preparing another long-term adventure, which will enable these artists to promote modern forms while remaining true to the tradition of folk theater: the creation of a traveling theater, like Molière's, taking to the roads of Tamil Nadu.
Indeed, every year, folk shows at various festivals spread throughout the villages, sometimes lasting all night.
So from April to September 2016, Indianostrum's project will be to find its way out into the countryside and perfect, while performing, this traditional art of folk show.
For the rest of the year, the troupe will return to the Indianostrum stage to present or broadcast other shows.

In 2017, it's the Compagnie du Soleil's turn to welcome Indianostrum. The troupe from Pondicherry presents three shows: Kunti - Karna, Terre de cendres and Karuppu (Noir). They also offer to explore the great Indian myth of the Mahabharata and its various theatrical forms in a workshop with the Conservatoire National Supérieur d'Art Dramatique de Paris, plus meetings, readings and concerts.

Koumarane's main concern is to maintain this permanent troupe (a dozen salaried employees, with another ten in training), but he still finds it difficult to "make ends meet". Subsidies and institutional support are rare in India, and 45% of his budget is covered by donations. The rest comes from ticket sales, participation in festivals, collaboration with other Indian and foreign troupes, and income from tours abroad.
We are entering into a multi-year partnership with him.

And in 2018, Indianostrum created Chandâla, the impure, inspired by Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. In it, the troupe tackles the issue of caste through a love story, and the play was performed at Francophonies de Limoge in 2018. 

In 2020, the École Nomade du Théâtre du Soleil returned to Pondicherry.
For the third session in 2020, Ariane Mnouchkine and nine actors led a two-week workshop at the Indianostrum Theatre, which 141 apprentice actors attended and participated in.

Today, the Indianostrum troupe welcomes many young people from all over India.
If we had to describe Koumarane Valavane's theatrical work, we could define it as a weaving together of the founding texts of European culture, the tragedies of Oedipus and Antigone, Molière's comedies, Shakespearean dramas and the Mahabharata

" We all need a creative outlet - a window, a space - so we don't lose track of ourselves." Norman Fisher