The annual Ranga Shankara festival is back and this time the focus is on folk theatre forms from across the country. The 11-day festival that begins on Friday in Bangalore will have seven plays and two recital performances, an arts and theatre appreciation course, and much more.

The festival will open with a performance by the Sattriya Monks of Uttar Kamalabari Satra from Majuli village in Assam, a 500-year-old theatre tradition that originated in the Vaishnav monasteries of Assam. “Theatre is not about language. We want people to come in here and ask questions as they watch various art forms," says Arundhati Nag, creative director of Ranga Shankara, explaining the decision to focus on traditional folk art. The festival will also include eight short folk theatre performances from Karnataka.

The Ranga Shankara team spent months getting in touch with artistes who are said to be the best in their fields. Ramakant Vithal Umap of Maharashtra will perform Jambhul Aakhyaan in the Gondhal form, while Kapila Venu, the well-known dancer from Natana Kairali (Kerala), will perform Koodiyattam. Also from Kerala is the legendary Kavalam Narayana Panikkar’s play Sopanam, that will be performed in the Theyyam folk form. From Tamil Nadu come two stories from the Mahabharat that will be performed using the form of Kattaikkuttu. The festival will conclude on 1 November with a Yakshagana performance by Theatre Yaksha of Udupi.

The arts and theatre appreciation course will be conducted by scholar Sadanand Menon, playwright and actor Girish Karnad, vocalist Bombay Jayashri, theatre director and poet Kavalam Narayana Panikkar, dancer Leela Samson, film-maker Anand Patwardhan and artist N. Pushpamala.

Also watch out for an exhibition of photographs curated by R.V. Ramani. Though the plays will be performed in eight different languages, many have English subtitles. Films on folk and classical art will be shown starting 25 October. For the complete schedule, log on to

Tickets can be bought at Ranga Shankara,,, and Daily Bread outlets in Indira Nagar and Koramangala, Bangalore.