Category Archives: Arts & Culture

The Appeal and Influence of Parsi Theater

Nichola Pais explores the Parsi theater, a highly influential movement in the realm of modern Indian theatre, and its impact on cinema.


What is Parsi theatre?
Parsi theatre’s aesthetics and strategies greatly influenced the concept, organisation and production of modern Gujarati, Hindi and Urdu theatres in India. It had absorbed several features of eastern traditional or folk performing arts, such as music, mime, and comic interludes.
While theatre in India may be traced back to Sanskrit dramatist Kalidasa’s plays, it was with Parsi natak mandalis that drama developed in colonial times. Focusing on entertainment with a social message, Parsi theatre was a highly influential movement in the realm of modem Indian theatre. A professional theatre movement, it was sponsored by the Parsis and the Zoroastrian traders who migrated in the 17th century from Pars in Iran to India, to settle in Gujarat’s coastal areas, before many chose to move to nearby Bombay for trade and commerce. A rich and prominent business community in the city, the Parsis had predominantly adopted English ways of living. They went on to develop theatre both for their personal amusement and commercial purposes. Flourishing between the 1850s up until the 1930s, Parsi theatre was the result of the blending of European techniques and local folk forms of Indian theatre. It marked the beginning of a new tradition in Indian theatrical culture; before this, the only kind of Indian theatrical practice in existence was folk theatre performances. Popularising proscenium-style theatre in regional languages, Parsi theatre was melodramatic and entertaining in nature, with the plays incorporating humour, melodious songs and music, sensationalism and stagecraft.. success led to the development of bhasha theatre in regional languages. Parsi theatre’s aesthetics and strategies greatly influenced the concept, organisation and production of modem Gujarati, Hindi and Urdu theatre in India. It had absorbed several features of eastern traditional or folk performing arts, such as music, mime, and comic interludes. Thus, Parsi theatre plays were not a mere imitation of western theatre but a blend of Eastern and Western dramatic techniques. Neither purely based on Western theatre nor on eastern theatre, it was a hybrid which was successful in garnering the attention of audiences, as its influence quickly spread across India.



Unique elements
Commercial Parsi theatrical productions had a number of unique and interesting elements. Three actors would chant a prayer before the drama began, after which one actor would deliver the prologue. In marked similarity to the Bengali indigenous dramatic production, Jatra, music played a significant part in Parsi theatre. The end of a play would see an actor come forward to offer a vote of thanks, ending with a farewell song. Parsi theatre was also rooted in community identity, with community members sharing a sense of oneness with the theatrical productions, and fostering identity and community culture. Communicating in the local languages like Gujarati, Hindi and Urdu, it used European-style proscenium with richly painted backdrop curtains and trick stage effects. It also depended on spectacle and melodrama to appeal to its audiences. It ushered in the conventions and techniques of realism, as it marked the transition from stylised open-air presentations to a new urban drama.


Novel dramatic devices
Plays mixed elements of realism with fantasy, music, dance, narrative and spectacle, dialogue and ingenuity of stage presentation, within a dramatic discourse of melodrama.
A predominant feature of Parsi theatre was the alternation of deep and shallow scenes. While the deep scenes contained serious subject matter, the shallow scenes were largely comic in nature, to amuse the audience. The shallow scenes would be mostly presented on the front stage and the deep scenes in the deeper part of the stage. While the shallow scenes ran at the foreground of the stage with a painted curtain generally depicting a street as backdrop, the deep scenes would be prepared during this time. The shallow scenes, enacted by the ‘lower class’ characters, served as links in the development of the plot Their main purpose however w. to keep the audience engaged while the deep scenes, which showed interior of palaces, royals parks, and other such visually opulent sets, were being changed or decorated. While important characters rarely appeared in the street scenes, the comic characters kept their place in the deep scenes. The characteristics of shallow scene of Parsi theatre have evidently come from Shakespeare, where the technique was used for ‘comic relief’ in his tragedies. However, while Shakespeare used comic relief as mental comfort for the audience just after the blood-shed on stage, Parsi theatre used shallow scenes for the passing of time when the scene preparation was in progress for the deep scene. Shallow scene incorporated comic dialogues, romantic scenes, highly dramatic actions, and some risque scenes. Parsi theatre always used back and middle curtains to change the location or scene. The painted curtain dropped from pulleys was used for the changing of scenes rather than using props on the stage. Parsi theatre also directly presented melodrama on the stage like death and blood-shed, thus producing aesthetic pleasure in the audience’s mind. Plays mixed elements of realism with fantasy, music, dance, narrative and spectacle, dialogue and ingenuity of stage presentation, within a dramatic discourse of melodrama. Additionally, special kind of language was used for special kinds of characters, in another similarity with Shakespeare’s use of language in his plays. Thus, characters in the play spoke according to their social status, with the higher class speaking in figurative and beautiful language while the lower class used prose or communicative language. With the audience for Parsi theatre largely hailing from the middle and lower working class, there were wide usage of songs, metrical and rhythmic lines. Background music was also used in order to produce aesthetic pleasure or Rasa in the play, even as it helped the director create the illusion, reality on stage. Interestingly, the usage of music was borrowed from Indian folk theatre. Parsi theatre was thus a new and experimental movement on various levels, opening a hitherto unseen way of presenting a play on the Indian stage. In a nutshell, it promoted the use of both deep and shallow scenes, introduced secularism in content, and enabled the performance of plays in proscenium theatres.

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January 12, was Zanzibar Revolution day – a day to remember for a story of a country’s freedom and also the story of a forgotten genocide. A thread on Zanzibar Revolution, Parsees of Gujarat and a flamboyant rockstar we’ve all heard about.
For centuries, Zanzibar – a Tanzanian archipelago – was ruled by Muslim Sultanate and a hot destination for Indian traders. Indians, both Hindus and Muslims, had their families established within a flourishing community until one dark day arrived.
On this day back in 1964 a violent coup by African allied parties, fueled by ethnic pride & anger over slavery in the past, not only ended 200 years of Muslim rule but also murdered and expelled thousands of Arabs and Indian civilians in broad daylight.
The Indians, who were settled there, were mostly wealthy merchants and traders from Northwestern India. One of them was Bomi Bulsara, a Persian cashier from Western India.
Bomi was originally a Parsi from the Gujarat region of the Bombay Presidency in Colonial India. His family name was derived from the Bulsar or Valsad – a town in Gujarat from where they were originated.
There is a very interesting legend about how the Zoroastrians fled from their Persian homeland to Gujarat to escape religious prosecution. As per the epic poem Qissa-i Sanjan when they arrived in Gujarat, they met Jadi Rana, the local King.
The King sent a vessel of milk filled to the very brim to the newly arrived Persis signifying his kingdom is already full and couldn’t accept refugees.
In response, they returned the vessel adding a pinch of sugar indicating Persis would only make their life sweeter.
When Bomi moved to Zanzibar as a cashier at a British Colonial Court he was fairly young. He was said to work at ‘House of Wonders’ – a landmark building in famous Stone Town. It was so named as it was the 1st building in Zanzibar with electricity.
A few years later Bomi married another Persian girl Jer from India and a few years later their son Farrokh Bulsara was born on 5th September 1946 in Zanzibar Government Hospital.
Farrokh was sent for schooling in India and when he came back in 1963, the bloody Zanzibar Revolution was impending. On the fated day, over 20,000 Arabs had been murdered, along with thousands of Indians. Rest fled the country.
This is possibly the only genocide that was entirely filmed live and made as a documentary. ( refer ‘Africa Addio’) There is apparently no memorial for the victims even today.
Among the Indians who were fortunate enough to escape Zanzibar before the revolution started were Bomi and Jer Bulsara, and their children, Farrokh and Kashmira.
Bomi was able to escape the situation in time and flee to England before the genocide began. Today we know Farrokh as Freddie Mercury – the iconic lead vocalist of the rock band Queen.
If the Bulsara family had failed to flee to England escaping the genocide, the world would have probably never known Freddie Mercury and you would possibly never heard of Bohemian Rhapsody!

Courtesy : Jehangir Bisney

Bapsi Sidhwa Literary Prize


The main objective of the Bapsi Sidhwa Literary Prize is to recognize the literary production of works by Zoroastrian authors. We seek to celebrate the accomplishments of Bapsi Sidhwa with this prize and honor literary expressions that represent the rich characters, setting, laughter, and thoughtful topics found in her novels and essays.

Submissions and Deadlines 

The Bapsi Sidhwa Literary Prize will be awarded to writers of fiction. Novels and collections of short stories will be accepted. All works should be originally in English. Submissions are accepted only from Zoroastrian authors.

The Prize will be awarded biennially. Works must be published between January 2020, and January 2022, for the 2022 award. Each submission must be accompanied by the Application Form below.

Authors must be 18 or older. Submissions must include one copy of the book. Submissions must be first editions. In addition, a digital copy is required to share with the jury for adjudication. Digital copies will only be made available to the judges adjudicating the prize. Hard copies will not be returned and will be placed in our library. Reviews and endorsement letters can accompany applications but are not required. Each submission must be the work of a single author. No co-authored books, edited books or anthologies will be accepted. Self-published books will not be eligible.

Submission of hard copy with application and fee must be sent or delivered in a sealed package to the following address:


526 Woodbend Lane

Houston, Texas 77079

A digital copy should be sent to Contact Aban ( or Jangoo ( for any questions concerning the prize.  Submissions must be received no later than February 1, 2022, for the 2022 award.

Selection and Adjudication

For this category, a panel of judges will select finalists and then choose the winner. The organizers of the Prize and the judges will not be responsible for issues arising from any alleged plagiarism among the finalists and the winning work. In the case of insufficient or inadequate entries, the prize will not be assigned in that year. The decision of the finalists and winner by the managing organizations and the judges is final.

The winner will receive $ 2,000 and a trophy. All the participants are invited to attend an award ceremony (TBA). Finalists and winner will be announced in our press release before the award ceremony. The winner is encouraged to attend or to delegate a person of their choice to accept the prize.

Background and History

The Bapsi Sidhwa Literary Prize has been established by the Library Committee of the Zoroastrian Association of Houston (ZAH), home of the FEZANA Information Research and Education System (FIRES). FIRES is a centralized collection of books, manuscripts, literature, magazines, and scholarly research materials in print and electronic form, primarily pertaining to Zarathushti faith, culture, and history. FIRES was established in 2010 and is housed and managed by the ZAH Library.

FIRES and ZAH are the sole managers and organizers of the Bapsi Sidhwa Literary Prize. The Bapsi Sidhwa Literary Prize honors and promotes the work of Zoroastrian writers who share the same enthusiasm to represent the worlds and people found in Sidhwa’s novels and essays. The Prize is named after the first recognized Zoroastrian writer from Pakistan of Parsi descent. Bapsi Sidhwa was born in Karachi in 1936 and lived in Houston, Texas for many years as a Pakistani writer with an international reputation. She was considered by Faiz Ahmed Faiz as the precursor to representing Parsis in literature, stating that “Bapsi Sidhwa’s study of some archetypal characters of her community -the Parsis – deserves more than praise both as a sociological and as a literary document….Bapsi Sidhwa has opened for us all the doors and all the windows of this world’s innermost recesses.”







Author (first and last name):  ___________________________________________________

Address:  ____________________________________________________________________


Phone: ___________________________________________

Email: ____________________________________________

Certification I, (print name clearly) _____________________________________________, certify that:

□ I am a Zoroastrian author over the age of 18

□ I am the author of this text submitted with this application

Work Submitted (title):  _______________________________________________________________

Name of Publisher:  __________________________________________________________________

Publication Date (MM, YYYY): ____________________

Reviews included with application (not required to apply):

Endorsement Letters included with application (not required to apply):

One copy of book: □ Included with application                   □ Will be mailed by publisher

A digital copy should be sent to Contact Aban ( or Jangoo ( for any questions concerning the prize.  Submissions must be received no later than February 1, 2022, for the 2022 award.

I hereby authorize FIRES/ZAH and any of their directors, officers, or affiliates, to make such inquiries and investigations as they deem necessary to verify the information I have provided in this application. I understand that any information contained in this application that is determined by them to be untrue may invalidate my application and disqualify me from the Bapsi Sidhwa Literary Prize.




____________________________________________                                                   ___________________

SIGNATURE                                                                                                                                 DATE

Burjor Patel – Noted Theater Personality no more

Mumbai Local with Shernaz Patel & Burjor Patel : Like Father Like Daughter
This talk by Shernaz Patel and Burjor Patel is a part of our Mumbai Local series. The Mumbai Local addas with artists and scientists are held regularly at our partner venues across Mumbai The sessions are free and open to all. To know more, please visit We look forward to seeing you at Mumbai Local. If you can’t make it for understandable reasons like you’re not in Mumbai – enjoy the videos!
Warm regards,
The Junoon Team



Leah is 17 years old – in Grade XII, and has been playing the violin for almost 10 years now.

She joined the Suzuki School of Violin in 2010 at Mumbai’s National Centre of Performing Arts (NCPA) at the age of 6.

In April 2019 she was one of the first lot of students to successfully complete the junior course of seven years of the SOI Music Academy with a concentration in solo violin and ensemble playing.

In September 2019 Leah was one of the 5 children chosen to play with the Adult SOI Orchestra in Mumbai, the opening concert of the SOI season.

Leah Divecha continued her violin training all through the Covid lockdown periods through online sessions.

In July 2021 Leah entered the Rocky Mountain Ensemble Music Summer Festival, (a Canada- Ontario based Competition) in her age category, accompanied on the piano by her friend and fellow student of the SOI Music School, Samia Jetha.

Leah submitted her version of Franz Schubert’s  Sonatina in A-minor , Op. 137, No. 2 and her entry was the 10,716th entry in the competition under various categories.  From all these entries, Leah stood second in the Judges poll in her Ensemble category – a panel of 8 Judges from all over the world.

They also won First place for the Audience Award.

Leah will be playing at the upcoming 12th World Zoroastrian Congress 2022 in New York City with the World Zoroastrian Symphony Orchestra.

Leah is very grateful for the guidance and patience of her teachers who were also given an award for their extraordinary dedication and achievement in the field of teaching music : Ms. Gulzara Shakir and Ms. Aida Bisengalieva,  as well as to violinist and founding Director of the SOI, Mr. Marat Bisengaliev.

Duty Queens In Conversation with Rashna Gazder | Hosted by Dr. Rakhshinda

Duty Queen – Madame Rashna Gazder is originally from Mumbai, India and is happily married since 31 years in Karachi,Pakistan. She has been teaching the Piano, French and Spanish languages privately. She is a Concert Pianist and has hosted Six major fundraising concerts for needy institutes in Karachi. Her group of pupils are called Harmony In Helping Hands. Rashna is also avidly into embroidery and art. Her seventh fundraiser in mid September is for Lady Dufferin Hospital Karachi,Pakistan.
– Hosted and Conceptualized by:
Dr. Rakhshinda : Founder Apna Wallet Think Tank , Kafe Kaam ??? ??? and Chamber of Women Social Entrepreneurs | Author | Public Health and Gender Expert

Parsi Handicrafts Artisan Fair

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The members of the Bangalore Chapter of the WZCC, once again, rise as stalwarts to promote entrepreneurs. In March of 2021 we promoted Foodpreneurs. This August we are promoting Parsi Artisans involved in Handicrafts. We have focused on those entrepreneurs who lack the means to advertise and promote sales of their art and craft. In addition we have also showcased many others who are making beautiful handicrafts…embroidery, sculpture, decoupage, jewellery, paintings, etc. We are proud to showcase artisans from all over the world and are grateful to them for helping us make this a pan-global event. We count on your support to promote these entrepreneurs and spread the word about their handicrafts.

Shernaz Cama – 20 years of research in Parsi Embroidery

Please see the links below and do spare some time to listen to the Presentation of 2O years of research in Parsi Embroidery.
I need to your support & help  to take this Project forward and create a seminal book to record one beautiful aspect of this ancient culture and world heritage.
Looking forward to your response. Thanks.
Shernaz Cama
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