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Veenapani Chawla

 The Founder Of Adishakti

Our Guru, our light.

Recognised as one of the pioneers in experimental theatre in contemporary India, Veenapani Chawla had long been engaged in creating a unique form of performance methodology. A self-taught artiste, she evolved a new language of theatrical practice that fuses traditional and modern aspects of life and theatre.

Her belief in plurality helped her move beyond earlier notions of what theatre should be and demonstrate what theatre could be. The culmination of which led to the founding of Adishakti Laboratory for Theatre Arts Research in Pondicherry.

Veenapani’s love for theatre was sparked off as a child when she watched Geoffrey Kendall’s Shakespeareana performing in her boarding school in Dehradun. Later as a young teacher of History and English in Mumbai she found her metier making plays with school kids. The kids grew up, the plays got more serious, and then turned professional as she established Adishakti in Mumbai, 1981 with a production of Oedipus with Naseeruedin Shah playing the title role. Her life was always one long process of training, learning, researching and creative thinking. She became a force to reckon with in contemporary theatre and an inspiration to all.

But Mumbai was too small to contain her growing plans for Adishakti. From just making plays, Veenapani’s focus expanded into intensive research. So she shifted to Pondicherry and established the Adishakti campus nearby, steering it from strength to strength. She has been in the forefront of developing a unique actors methodology and has disseminated the same through workshops, seminars, performances and papers at Adishakti and at several Indian and International venues. Her journey was long , ardous , engaging and definitely rewarding. Veenapani passed away on November 30th 2014. She will always be with us.


  • Trained with Patsy Rodenberg the voice coach of the Royal Shakespeare company in London
  • Worked with Eugenio Barba’s Odintatretat Holstebro, Denmark
  • Trained in Mayurbhanj Chhau, Kalaripayattu, Koodiyattam and Dhrupad singing.
  • Recognised with grants for her work from the Ford foundation, Charles Wallase India trust, the department of culture, detlangeudvalga in Denmark and the India foundation of the arts.
  • Founded Adishakti Laboratory For Theatre Art Research near Pondicherry
  • Received senior fellowship from the ministry of culture, new Delhi
  • Served on the board of directors trustees of the national folklore support centre, Chennai
  • Was on the board of editors for Theatre, Dance and Performance Traning published by the university of Leeds, UK
  • Awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Puraskar for theatre direction.
  • Chronicled in a book edited by Shanta Ghokale,  The theatre of Veenapani Chawla- theory, practice and performance published by Oxford university press, India in 2014
  • Directed the Adishakti productions; Oedipus, Rosencrantz and Guldenstern are dead, Trojen Women, Savitri , The Tenth Head
  • Written and directed the Adishakti productions; Impression of Bhima, Brhannala, Ganapati, Hare and the Tortoise.

Read more about her work…


An absorbing account of a dedicated practitioner of the art whose body of work is not merely the outcome of a continued engagement with theatre per se but a serious quest into the possibilities of the body and consciousness. The book presents a multidimensional view of Veenapani Chawla.

The Theatre of Veenapani Chawla: Theory, Practice and Performance, edited by Shanta Gokhale

Adishakti started with the research into and re-animation of traditional and folk knowledges in theatre, music and movement, to evolve a viable physical vocabulary for performance. It encompasses methods for training in voice, Kalaripayattu, psychological expression and using rhythm as text. 

Veenapani’s Research Papers

Today, Adishakti the institution founded by Veenapani is a vibrant and dynamic theatre community disseminating the performance methodologies pioneered by her. Adishakti is engaged in several activities with communities surrounding it, and being a place where all artists find a place of nurture and support.

How can we support Veenapani’s work