Roopram’s SULTANA DAKU (Nautanki) Director: Devendra Sharma


Playwright: Roopram

Director: Devendra Sharma

Group:  Brij Lok Madhuri, Uttar Pradesh

Language: Hindi

Duration: 1 hr 30 mins

The Form

Before the advent of Bollywood, Nautanki was the biggest entertainment medium in the villages and towns of northern India. Nautanki’s origin lies in the Saangit, Bhagat, and Swang musical theatre traditions of Northern India. Nautanki performances are operas based on popular themes derived from romantic tales, mythology, or biographies of local heroes. The performance is often punctuated with songs, dances, and skits, which serve as breaks and comic relief for the audience. The pleasure of Nautanki lies in the intense melodic exchanges between two or three performers, and at times a chorus. Traditional Nautankis usually start late at night, often around 10 p.m. or so, and go on all night until sunrise the next morning (for a total of 8–10 hours).

The Play

Written in the 1920s by Roopram, a writer of Natharam Gaud’s Nautanki troupe, this Nautanki is the story of Sultana, the famous dacoit of early 20th century. Sultana Daku, the ‘benevolent dacoit’ is an equivalent of England’s Robin Hood, who steals from the rich and gives to the poor with the help of his gang of three hundred dacoits. Sultana’s love was Phoolkanwar, a tawaayaf (dancer), who lived with him in the jungle. The present Nautanki portrays that ironically, Sultana was betrayed by a poor person, whom he helped with money.

The Director

Dr. Devendra Sharma is a Professor of Communication and Performance at California State University, USA. Dr. Sharma introduced and popularized Swang-Nautanki in America and Europe. He was trained in the famous Samai-Khera Gharana by his father guru Pandit Ram Dayal Sharma, and in film direction at University of Southern California (Cinema School). Dr. Sharma has been invited as a professor of media and communication, and to perform, direct, and produce musical theatre shows at renowned institutions such as the University of Oxford, University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, Columbia University, Cornell University, University of California-Berkeley, University of California-Los Angeles, and University of Texas -Austin. In 2010, he was invited by the world-renowned Théâtre du Soleil in Paris, France to train French actors in Nautanki. In 2012, he was a visiting professor and Director-in-Residence at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) Pune.


Pandit Ram Dayal Sharma is a living legend of Swang, Bhagat, Nautanki, Rasiya, and Raaslila musical theatre traditions of north India, and is the present guru of Samai-Khera Rahasdhari Gharana. He is a famous singer, composer, actor, writer, director, and has performed more than 2000 shows all over the world. Panditji has been a visiting professor of Nautanki at the National School of Drama for more than three decades, and has taught music at many universities. In addition to numerous other awards, Panditji was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Nautanki by the President of India in 2015.

The Group

Brij Lok Madhuri (BLM) was founded by Pandit Ram Dayal Sharma in 1970s. It has been invited by various institutions such as Sangeet Natak Akademi, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, and Tara Arts London. Led abroad by Panditji’s son, Dr. Devendra Sharma, it has performed at prestigious venues like Théâtre du Soleil, Paris; School of Oriental and African Studies, London; Counter Pulse, San Francisco; Inner Eye Foundation, San Ramon; Mondavi Center for the Arts, California; Hindi Sangam, Portland, and also in various top universities of the world. For more than four decades, it has collaborated with organizations like United Nations Program for HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), etc.

Cast & Credits

Sultana Daku:  Devendra Sharma

Sadhu: Pandit Ram Dayal Sharma

Phoolkunwar: Sharvari Deshpande

Mr. Young: Vishnu Sharma/Pandit Ram Dayal Sharma

Kavi/Ranga: Pandit Ram Dayal Sharma/Vishnu Sharma

Dakiya/Seth/Comic: Kishan Swaroop Pachori

Pradhan: Guddu

Abul Qasim/Deputy: Manish Bawa/Ashish Kumar Sharma

Sundari/Bedhini/Mahila: Patra Lalita, Kavya Mishra, Dolly Sharma, Anu Singh

Daakus/Munim: Jatin Sharma, Manish Bawa, Nathilal Yadav, Ashish Kumar Sharma

Dakiya Ka BetaKavi Sharma

Harmonium: Hari Singh

Nakkar: Matol

Dholak: Rasheed

Clarinet: MadanLal

Costume: Krishna Sharma

Make-up/PropertySadhna Sharma

Management: Sahitya Sharma /Ashish Kumar Sharma

Playwright: Roopram

Guru & Music Director: Ram Dayal Sharma

DirectorDevendra Sharma

Manohar Khushalani

Manohar Khushalani

Prof. Manohar Khushalani is a former Visiting Faculty at Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Delhi. The courses he taught were: Animation & Graphics, Non-Linear Editing for Film and Radio and Theatre Appreciation.  He has won a total of nine Excellence in Teaching awards for all the courses he has taught at IIITD Earlier he retired from Government of India as Director Environment Management, Central Water Commission and held many senior positions in the Government Based on a Belief that Culture and Environment are the two keys to global sustainability , Manohar Khushalani has launched two portals: A Portal on Environment and Water called One Vorld at url: and two Ezines on Culture called Stage Buzz at url: He has taught extensively in varied subjects such as Dam Safety, Instrumentation, CAD, IT, Animation, Theatre, Newspaper Editing. He has conducted Courses on Environment Management, Water Shed Development, Team Building and Personality Development. He was an Expert Member of Prasar Bharti’s Committee for Grading & Short listing Films for Telecast on all channels of Doordarshan.  He is a Radio Anchor for All India Radio and has moderated several programs for the Rajdhani Channel He is a well-known Theatre Actor/Director and Critic, has been involved in theatre since 1977. He has worked as an actor in over 50 plays with almost every leading director/Actor in the Country including Badal Sircar, Feisal Alkazi, Amal Allana, M.K. Raina, Anuradha Kapoor, Maya Rao, Manohar Singh, Prasanna, Rati Bartholomew and Sushmita Mukherji. He has been active in the social sector as a street theatre activist. As a member of Workshop Theatre, Theatre Union and Prayog, Khushalani has participated in street plays taking up major social issues such as dowry, bride burning, Sati, banned medicinal drugs and communalism. Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist and Can’t Pay Won’t Pay, both directed by him, received rave notices from critics and audiences alike. Other plays directed by him include Badal Sircar’s, Sagina Mahato and Boris Vian’s Empire Builders for Ruchika Theatre Group. Khushalani has also acted in a few films such as Sudhir Mishra's Hazaron Khwaishen Aisi , Shoojit Sircar’s Madras Café and Pradeep Krishan's Annie Gives Those Ones. He is an Animator & Graphics Designer and has directed a number of documentaries. He also held a number of Honorary positions and was President of North India Films Association, He was the Chairman of  Jury for UGC CEC Educational Films Competition and has been on their Preview Committee since last many years. He was on the preview committee of Door Darshan Channel 3, was a visiting Professor at National School of Drama, New Delhi, and Film & Television Institute of India, Pune, AJKMCRR, Jamia Milia Islamia and Professor in Media at FICT, Delhi  He has judged a large number of Drama Competitions and conducted a number of Theatre / Management Games Workshops with Institutions such as AIIMS, NTPC, CWPRS, NWA, Karve Nari Prakshishan Sansthan, FICT, IIT, MAMC, Gargi College, KNC, Tagore International School and Vivekananda School. He is a Theatre Critic for IIC Diary, has also been a Columnist with Midday and Pioneer Daily and wrote Column's Called Culture Cocktail and Footlights Respectively. He was also the Guest Editor for an issue on Folk Theatre of ICCR Journal Horizons. He has written for Times of Indian, Hindustan Times, Blitz, Hard News, Hindu Business Line, Theatre India & Art Times. He has designed dams and hydraulic structures for the Government. He is a programmer and has developed Engineering design software in Fortran. He is a co-author of Irrigation Practice & Design (Vol 1 to5 - 1500 pages) published by Oxford & IBH and sponsored by National Book Trust. He has been a Director, Environment and Sociology, at the National Water Academy, Khadakwasla and Director, Environment Management Directorate, Central Water Commission and Member Secretary, National Environmental Monitoring Committee for River Valley Projects. He was also Director of Instrumentation Directorate in the Dam Safety Organisation. He was Chief General Manager and Head of Water Resources at Scott Wilson and is an accredited consultant with numerous other organizations He is a Delhi Public School, BITS Pilani, IIT Delhi and FTI Pune Alumini. He was also the President of BITS Pilani Alumni Association, Pune.

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