Photo Series: Surabhi, the Nomadic Stage Artists

Surabhi is an uncommon institution of family groups that perform dramas in villages and lead a nomadic life. The institution has been relentlessly playing the compendiums from the Indian epics and mythologies: Ramayana, Mahabharatha and Bhagavatha for the past 127 years. There was a time when Surabhi troupes flourished all over Andhra Pradesh. Unfortunately, today, there are very few surviving groups.

Chandrasekhar Singh, an art lover and photographer, captures beautiful candid images of one such Surabhi troupe. His work generally revolves around people and their lifestyles and portrays human perseverance, passion and devotion. He writes a short anecdote about the troupe he has captured in the photo series, “Interesting fact is all artists and technicians of this troupe are from one single family, dedicated themselves to the stage. This Surabhi troupe is a small world by itself. The artists with their families live on the other side of the theatre structure in small spaces built for them. Women and children have always been an integral part of its productions.”

“Different backdrops for the stage keep changing as required.”

“Artists themselves design the stage and the backdrops. A team keeps working backstage for the next scene.”

“There is a seperate workshop to produce sets and other necessary objects. The artists do moulding, curtain painting, cut-out designs, and other works by themselves. Sadly, today Surabhi has lost its shine in this modern age,” he adds.

“Self made controlling unit with wiring for lighting and stage”

Photographer Chandrasekhar Singh captions the below photograph as follows, “Whatever hardships they have, irrespective of the audience, their shows go on. Even for an audience of five, the entire 60 member team get themselves ready and run a show. This art is one of its kind in the world which needs to be protected and supported in every possible way in the years to come.”

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