Archive for the ‘Natok’ Category

Parthapratim Deb`s Wonderful Play Sagina Mahato (Review)

Monday, May 6th, 2013

The story in Sagina Mahato, bears a unique blend of vigor, innocence and impulse. Sagina Mahato, merely seems to be a common man, but his presence before all others in his surroundings seems to be an exceptional person whose, eagerness to know people and whose lending hand towards distressed people without knowing ultimate result, whose  honest attempt for wiping  out all sorts of worries and anxiety for peaceful living makes him different from his surroundings. In the society there is no room for an individual, but in many occasions, even for the greater interest of the society, an individual may take a vital role. We must know by rising above all pride and greed and fear, that, worldly losses and physical death can take nothing away from the truth and greatness of our soul.

This is enough to allure a director to carve out bold and spectacular sketches on the stage. The scenes enfolded in such a manner as there is utmost entertainment amidst sufferings, torture and defeat. This down-to-earth flavor is director’s inspiration. The big cast displays youthful power and radiance in a variety of shades. Above all, the director  finds  that the philosophy of the labor class could not be confined to a particular area. It crosses all bounds and becomes universal. All these gave great impetus to the director Partha Pratim Deb to work on this play. The director says that he will be grateful if this effort gives pleasure and food for thought.

Sagina Mahato, a popular play by Badal Sircar is based on an enterprising story by Gour Kishore Ghosh. Sagina Mahato is a  honest dedicated and disciplined worker. Sagina Mahato, a fascinating leader among illiterate, poverty-stricken, rural worker community, uses his unique impulsive mechanism to confront the torment of the employer class. This entices urban political leaders, who send Gouri, their subordinate, in order to set up their rural party union with the help of Sagina’s charisma before the forthcoming election. Gouri, noble and sincere at heart, does her best but unambiguous Sagina falls prey to the complexities of the political world, so much so that his deprived kin become his foe. Sagina innocently convinced, rapidly undergoes metamorphosis through the ‘grace’ of dishonest and self-interested politician. Sagina turned himself as the key tools of self-interested politician. Courageous Sagina ultimately rejects all temptation of National Labor leadership and returns to his people, who once again cheer him up as their pathfinder. The story depicts that a true man fighting honestly for truth shall be a triumphant man any time any moment and at the cost of sacrifice of his life may establish himself a man of warrior for truth. A man of principal, a man having commitment to society cannot shrug his shoulders. Almost in this manner the producer says all about their production- Sagina Mahato.

But in reality there was one Sagina Mahato himself in the working class movement at tea gardens near Siliguri at Darjeeling district during pre independence period of 1942-43. And there is ample scope of thinking that Gour Kishore Ghosh at the same time was inspired by Jean Paul Sartre’s ‘In The Mesh’ written in 1948 where the protagonist is also some Jean about whom Jean Paul Sartre wrote - In a country that is dominated by foreign powers, power is corrupt. Those people who hold power would be villain despite themselves, as Jean.

Truly Sagina Mahato is a story against Indian Communist Party`s hegemony and their practice of culminating all types of movements into ballot paper. “Sagina Mahato” also supports the power corrupts theory. In the seventies Tapan Sinha directed Sagina Mahato where Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu played as Sagina and Lolita respectively. The film got enormous box office support. That was the period of Naxalite upsurge which started from Prasad Jot very near to Siliguri which once upon a time was the battlefield of real Sagina. Tapan Sinha might have discovered some similarity of Sagina with Charu Majumder, the protagonist of that movement and who exposed CPM’s hunger for power and as a consequence their engulfing rampant corruption. Sagina thus in Tapan Sinha’s film in the ‘Period Of Liberation’ might be a metaphor of Charu Majumder. To talk about the production, Parthapratim’s Sagina Mahato is a gorgeous work with very simple arrangements.

At the actor’s left, almost near apron area and closed to first and second wings there is suggestion of a hut where lives ‘Bhabi’ (sister in law), who seems to be the cradle of the working class community. Here they get little food, some country liquor, here in this courtyard people like Gurung (Shyamal Das), Mhadeb (Prasenjit Bhattacharya), Banshi (Sukanta Sil), Jagu (Pinku Saha), Kishan (Laltu Das), Sukhan (Jay Lahiri), Lolita (Shipra Pal) and others assemble. They cry they quarrel they sob they laugh they dance they sing they enjoy–everything in this courtyard. And amidst them the centre figure is always the unanimous leader Sagina Mahato (Parthapratim Deb) who teaches them not to stand on their knees before the Mill Owner, Factory Owner and other employers, who teaches them to protest and to retaliate. Sagina teaches them the theory and practice of strike. Sagina has changed the then existing order of labor-owner relationship.

In this poverty ridden cross section devoid of education, devoid of minimum comfort for livelihood Sagina by dint of his character, by dint of his enormous tenacity emancipates as not only the leader but also as a emancipator of the poor worker community. The Communist Party Of India, the self declared and self imposed vanguard of the working class got the news at Calcutta. To downsize Sagina according to their scale they send Gauri (Nandini Bhowmick) from Calcutta itself. In that poverty ridden country, liquor smeared arena Gauri appears with her urban attaché targeting Sagina whom she finds drunk, almost senseless and entangled with Lolita in a manner unlikely in urban and Communist area. Gauri is here in the almost subaltern area to subvert Sagina and thus to throw him in the whirlpool of vote- general election- formation of Govt etc at the cost of the interest of these subalterns. On the contrary Gauri gets involved in the modus operandi of Sagina, and gets gradually involved in Sagina’s activity. Thus instead of making Sagina her follower, she herself becomes follower of Sagina. But ultimately in a conspiracy nurtured by the HQ people of Gauri, Sagina gets caught in the cobweb of power. He is taken away from his soil in the name of making him national figure. Gauri too is also withdrawn from the breeding ground of Sagina the leader. But in the long run Sagina tears apart the mesh of power and Gauri too dissociates herself from her parent party and comes along with those people who after beating Sagina bitterly for his fifth columnist, embraces him with pride and passion.

Aalap’s debut production Sagina Mahato under the debut directorial work of Parthapratim Deb of Nandikar is a complete theatre. And so after the play the auditorium offered a standing ovation to the team Aalap under the leadership of Parthapratim Deb. The play with flamboyant music, dance and tight team work is in a word amazing.

As a singer actress we got an excellent newcomer named Rupa Deb. And Pubali Nath in her first appearance in stage has marveled us. Sipra Pal’s Lolita is another lively creation. And Nandini Bhowmick as Gauri has shown her excellence in depicting different shades of the character she played.

But the gem of gems is Parthapratim as the protagonist Sagina. Partha is simply a magician on the stage as an actor and as a singer too. In his debut he has sparkled as a director too. After a long gap we got the powerful actor writer Shubhashish Khamaru in the performance again. Be in the stage Shubhashish – it’s our humble request. Khamaru along with Kamal Chatterjee played the role of Communist leadership and both the actors efficiently reflected the broken characters of Indian Communists. Rhishabh Basu as manager or management is also competent.

In stage craft Bilu Datta has done his job effectively with minimum arrangement. Manoj Prasad has done the light design nicely and Nilava Chaterjee has drawn the title with his inherent efficiency.


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-Pachu Ray

Theatre Platform’s outstanding performance with scripts of Bratya Basu

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

March 22, 2012 (Calcutta Tube): We at the moment will engage ourselves with a young group of Kolkata named Theatre Platform. Their two very recent productions – Khanjana Ami Ar Asbo Na and Samayjan both directed by Debashish Ray have simply mesmerized me. Both the plays have been written by Bratya Basu.  Between the two productions, KHANJANA is definitely a courageous work.

While talking about courage one may ask so many questions from theatre itself. Kallol, Tir (Little Theatre Group production) and Duswapner Nagari (PLT production) of Utpal Dutta, Rajrakta written by Mohit Chatterjee and directed by Bibhash Chakraborty (Theatre Workshop), Prabaha of Indrajit Sen (Charandal), Kolkatar Hamlet by Asit Bose (CPTA), Pashukhamar by ShaNoli Mitra and Arpita Ghosh (Pancham Boidik), Bratya Basu`s Rudhhasangit (Kalindi Bratyajan) and Winkle Twinkle (Sansriti, directed by Debesh Chatterjee) are some of the examples of courageous political theatre. On the other hand Shambhu Mitra and Bijon Bhattachariya`s Nabanna (IPTA) and Tagore`s Raktakarabi in Shambhu Mitra`s direction at Bahurupi have shown courage of different kind and thus they have revolutionized our theatre. Natyakarer Sandhane Chhati Charitra of Ajitesh Banerjee (Nandikar) in one hand and Bratya Bose`s  Ashalin (Ganakrishti) on the other were courageous of their own kind. If one opens this box of courage earnestly, then one can understand the variety of courage. And thus Theatre Platform`s Khanjana is courageous of another kind.

Very recently the Apple group has launched a backup utility named Time Machine which they sell as Time Capsule. Though Samayjan is the Bengali transcription of Time Machine, it has nothing to do with that Time Capsule. The concept of Samayjan has cropped up from Time Machine, the historical novel written by H.G. Wells in 1895.

This concept of H. G. Wells inspired a young man to build a time machine. To project the result of the machine director Debashish has taken rampant help of multimedia. As a result by intermingling of the interesting subject with the charming technicalities the director made some doll drum in the upper tier which we should consider as a room in the attic where the pretty girl friend (Mausumi Das) of the boy used to come time and again. Incidentally we had the opportunity to watch some close scenes of the then unmarried couple in that attic. The rest is excavated when at a critical juncture the boy shaking his girl friend with his both hands says, ’It matters very little whether we are brother and sister  or  whatever blab blab relations we might have, everything has happened between us, so why bother since we are at the point of no return!`

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The story deals with a nucleus family consisting of parents and their only son. The only son (Apurba Ghosh) stays at attic, the parents Bedanta Banerjee the father and Nandini Bhowmic the mother stay at the ground floor. Bedanta is crippled and lives on strict and timely medication. Nandini talks very little and engages herself almost as a mistress of her husband. Certain boredom has been introduced in their lifestyle deliberately by the director to establish the time machine effect of attic. Bedanta the father suddenly starts recollection.

In the attic, the couple starts playing with the home made Time Machine. Whatever they watch we too watch the same in a big screen. In the screen gradually time machine projects the past, so comes selectively the grandfather, father and past tense events of Apurba. But since time machine does not know to conceal the unwanted frames, everything flashes back irrespective of its color and flavor. The time machine thus reaches in a midnight coup of a running train and projects a copulating couple consisting of a ticket checker and a passenger. This scene startles the couple of the attic. Because they are their father and mother respectively.

Reaching the far end of his life Bedanta, the then ticket collector wants to confess everything before her legal better half. He starts explaining why after returning from duty on that auspicious day he declared his submission of resignation. Bedanta thus no more wants to keep Nandini under sheer darkness. But after proceeding a few steps Bedanta understands that, there is something wrong in the state of Denmark. He understands that Nandini knows everything. Actually that one night`s friend of Bedanta once wrote a letter to her one night`s bed partner giving no address of her and giving the news of birth of a girl child as a result. After reading Nandini did not hand over the same to Bedanta.

At last Bedanta rediscovers her one night`s fiancé in his sons fiancé as soon as the latter removes her specs. The young is simply a replica of the old. And eventually his son and daughter are going to marry each other. Using the time machine we watch a very strong pronunciation which still seems to be obscure in our consciences. Time machine has taken them a long leap forward.

Now to talk about acting, here comes Nandini Bhowmic in the foremost. Nandini is amazing at the moment. We are citing some of her very recent works.  In Hamlet directed by Bibhash Chakraborty she was Gartrude, the queen of Denmark and the mother of Hamlet too. Anya Theatre`s production Chaitali Rater Swapna is adopted from Shakespeare`s Mid Summer Night`s Dream. In this production directed by Abanti Chakraborty, Nandini played in the role of Queen of Athens in one hand and a mere dancer of fairy land on the other. In another recent work Parashpathar directed by Shyamal Chakraborty Nandini is a superfluous TV reporter. In Sagina Mahato directed by Parthopratim Deb, she played a role of a trade union oriented party woman named Gauri. And in Samayjan she is an old morbid house maker. She has here exhibited the capacity to unfurl the character gradually and gradually. Next comes Bedanta who is a mature actor. In his parent group Natadha, Bedanta is an organizer and regular actor too. In Samayjan hidden complications under a calm and quite character are nicely unfurled by Bedanta step by step. Bedanta and Nandini Bhowmic have built a reliable combination.

We will now jump over to Apurba and Mausumi. Since their development is based on science fiction,some sort of magic reality is hidden with their development and apparent disaster. We have enjoyed this couple sitting on the other side of the auditorium and got the flavor of their nascent youth all the time along with their agony and ecstasy as well. Now some jargons.

Theatre is not just a narration. Theatre means action, the action accomplished with geometrical arrangement which should have inherent balance. And its total effect is supposed to be lyrical. And this lyric will be illusive infatuating but not lock stock and barrel impractical. Whatever might be the theories of theatre introduced by Stanislavoski, Brecht, Mayarhold, Dario Fo, Harold Pinter and other theatre stalwarts, theatre in a nutshell is mathematically derived geometrically arranged some sort of illusive infatuation and never being impractical proposition of any kind.

We are talking all those in context of two short plays-  Samayjan  and  Khanjana Ami Ar Asbo Na. Both the plays are intermingled in their axis- the axis devoid of traditional thought process, the axis where physical association has given priority in a straight way or in a roundabout manner in woman-man relationship. And sex too has not been taken up in a conventional way. In Samayjan virtually the sex partners (who eventually will be life partner) are sister and brother. In Khanjana there are two faces of a woman. One who writes erotic sex based novels. And the other face is docile obedient very much conventional. Now let us jump over to  Khanjana.

A packet in one armpit and a book in another hand, a most unimpressive young guest gets in the house of a writer Sauren Sen whose book is in his armpit and the book is meant for an autograph of the writer himself. He is entertained by a lady with a blood stained chopper in one hand, putting on a golden colored house coat and introducing herself as the wife of the writer. And eventually she is Khanjana. After knowing that the man is fanatic admirer of Sauren Sen and has come to collect his autograph, Khnajana simply bursts into anger and starts chasing him with that chopper. The guest runs here and there to get rid of her. But Khanjana herself is unyielding, pertinacious. She runs here and there in the stage and recites from that book and after that snatching the book from the guest, Khanjana starts reading. The portions which she is reading or reciting are full of erotic descriptions of sex. Since the guest enjoys this writing Khanjana declares him as a pervert. She takes off her house coat and in shorts and shirt chases the guest ordering him to undress and to get fucked by her. The startled perturbed guest runs here and there to get rid of Khanjana, but in vain. She gets hold of him during this tassel and declares that with the chopper she has butchered her pervert husband and now after fucking him she will kill him too. At this crucial moment, in comes a man who introduces himself as Sauren Sen. As soon as he orders Khanjana to go inside, she moves away most obediently. Anyway having his most favorite writer so close the guest asks him to give an autograph. Sauren says that he is not the writer, using his name Khanjana writes all those books which are hot cakes in the book market. He then asks her wife to come and give an autograph. Gentle Khanjana comes clad with sari blouse etc and politely offers the autograph.

In this production, acting tuning is based on the theory of unity of opposites. Khanjana and the guest are just opposite characters apparently, but inherent they have unity. The books the guest adores are written by Khanjana in one hand and besides temporary shocking behave of Khanjana she is docile calm and quite as is the guest. Atanu Mitra is the guest and Nancy has played the role of Khanjana. The duet of Nancy and Atanu is simply outstanding, I`m overwhelmed. The complete opposite acting style of Nancy and Atanu has created something, which is as I said earlier, mathematically derived geometrically arranged some sort of illusive infatuation and never being impractical proposition of any kind. The credit for all these goes to the director Debashish Ray. In a short spell Ratan Das has done well as Sauren Sen.

The thought provoking stage craft of both the productions has been planned by the accomplished director Debashish Ray and made by Tinku. Jayanta Mukherjee has done well with light. Shubhadip Guha whom I will never ever forget for his outstanding performance in Hridmajhare of Nandikar, has done well here also. Make up has been nicely done by Ranjit Chakraborty. Dress has been planned by the great Nancy. Theatre Platform has a long way to go. Hats off Theatre Platform!

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- Pachu Ray

Belashesher Kolahol-Bengali Play User Review

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

March 22, 2013 (Calcutta Tube):  Premiering on Valentine’s Day, that incidentally fell one day before Saraswati Puja – the traditional Bengali equivalent of the day of romance, Ballygunge Swapnasuchana presented Belashesher Kolahol – a romantic comedy and a privilege for the audience who witnessed for the first time as Swatilekha Sengupta acted in the play that was directed by none other than her daughter Sohini Sengupta.

Written by Kajal Chakraborty, the play highlights the eternal search of romantic fulfillment that each couple yearns for since the day they tie the nuptial bond but which seems always to be out of reach. The responsibility of raising a family, looking after near ones, social calls of every kind and above all the various domestic trivialities – each of these seem to overshadow the development of romance that is the guiding basis of a healthy family.

The story opens days after the aged Yajneshwar shocks his wife, Hemalata by filing a lawsuit against her on the grounds of breach of agreement. Quite naturally feeling insulted after years of toil spent not only to raise their family but also to tend to a host of dependants, the apalled Hemalata counters with a complaint of defamation. As the aged duo fights in the court of law, friends, well wishers and the next generation of son, daughter and their families rush in to help. But even their most sincere efforts fails and they are left wondering at what may be the root of the problem.

Is it a matter of shifted affection? Is there a third person in the midst of the happy couple? Or is it something more sinister? As the daughter and son-in-law approaches Yajneshwar, he cold-shoulders them while Hemalata being overwhelmed by the shock and truly at a loss, fails to convey a clear meaning of the conflict to her son and daughter-in-law.

But the problem seems not so ordinary in the least! It is finally revealed that Yajneswhar’s dream of a supreme married life, unscathed by the domestic complexities or the obligations to the society but filled with the Utopian urge of the youthful lover that resides in every romantic heart, alas, had never been met with by the more practical minded Hemalata.

The aged Yajneshwar tearfully ruminates about the days of yore that saw his youthful self trying hard to express his passion to a practical Hemalata who often failed to grasp its essence. On the contrary, Yajneshwar,in his part, had never tried to understand the effort of his sensible wife to turn down his public and impulsive display of emotion and so felt rather isolated.

As both realized the miscued opportunities of love and affection spoiled by social barriers and swapped by misunderstandings and misinterpretations, it dawns upon them – and to the audience too – that all may be not lost yet. Though age takes a toll on health and the body becomes frail but if the mind remains still young it promises a greener and a gratifying life with the spouse. True that many of our wishes remain unfulfilled as we step into adulthood, but each of these acts as the life force giving us renewed hope and a truer meaning to existence that the depressed heart often feels. Nurtured for ages in the bosom of the romantic souls, the passions that remain inevitably incomplete may not be the curse that it appears to be, but rather a necessity that gives a novel meaning to love and life.

This superbly orchestrated production, directed by Sohini Sengupta, could not have been more ably performed than by the veteran duo of Biswajit Chakraborty (Yajneshwar) and Swatilekha Sengupta (Hemalata). The impulsive Yajneshwar wailing in desperation in the court on one hand and then childishly sobbing at the convenient retreat of his home in front of his wife on the other may be etched in the mind of the audience just for the natural yet superb acting of Biswajit Chakraborty. Balancing the performance in no less magnitude was Swatilekha as the conservative and reverential Bengali lady who can bear all but not the humiliation from the person she loves and cares for most. The inconsolable Hemalata as she bears the greatest insult from her husband mixed with the despair of the uncertain future that finally finds way as she laments in front of her son could not have been more realistically sketched than what was depicted by Swatilekha Sengupta. But another point in the duo’s acting was the timing that is so essential for the underlying comedy. Speaking of comedy, the contribution of another person must be mentioned in the same breath. Rudratej Sengupta as Sitanghsu, the son-in-law, plays a pivotal role in bringing humour to the fore. His depiction of the simple, lovable, naïve, easy going Sitangshu with a single track mind filled with fantastic ideas yet social to the extreme provides a whole new dimension to the comedy. His encounter with the father-in-law as he mistakenly smells an illegitimate affair and his coaxing of his elder to divulge the secret is one of the instances that will be remembered for a long time. The rest of the cast also plays their part well as does the off-stage staff with a aptly designed lighting arrangement and a suitable make up. Bijoy Mukhopadhyay’s endeavour after Kanyadan thus can be stated as no way less an audience puller and remains to be seen whether it outshines its predecessor or not.

- Anirban De

Badal Sarcar And A Few Words on Theatre Outside Proscenium

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

Feb 24, 2013 (Calcutta Tube): Badal Sarcar appeared in the proscenium with his famous ‘Ebong Indrajit’ written in 1963. Now a days in many places inside our country and even in abroad Badal Sarcar`s ‘Pagla Ghora’ and ‘Sararatri’ are being staged in proscenium now and again. Recently Pagla Ghora directed by Amal Palekar has been staged in United States itself. To start with I cannot refrain myself from uttering some pungent words. Number one- Badal Sarcar may leave proscenium but it`s not expected from him to launch a crusade against the same. At the same time we in no way can support those irresponsible uttering against Badal Sarcar and his Third Theatre. In art and culture narrow minded illiberality cannot be welcomed. Mainly Utpal Dutta was the pioneer against Badal Sarcar and Third theatre. Badal Sarcar was not a man to keep himself mum. He rebuffed ruthlessly.

Androclis O Singho: Pathasena

Androclis O Singho: Pathasena

‘Theatre is also an art form. It`s not true that lots of finance is needed in theatre. For packaging and masking one needs money , but not for theatre itself. People are needed in theatre, people as audience and people as actor. There is no dearth of audience. Where there are people there are audience. They would not have come and purchase tickets, theatre itself will go to them. Once this is understood, theatre will come out of bondage and then only the process of unmasking will take its start. ….. Theatre to them is commodity. To market this commodity one needs glittering colored package. Dress- light- sound –everywhere there are shining packet to mesmerize audience. … Theatre is not conglomeration of colored bubbles of fantasy, on the contrary theatre is stark reality of naked life.’

Sambhu Mitra directed two of Badal Sarcar`s plays in proscenium. They were ‘Baki Itihas` and ‘Pagla Ghora’. I have not seen the former, but I have watched Pagla Ghora several times. Besides Bahurupi production, I have watched that of Proscenium Art Centre in Hindi directed by Shiukumar JhunJhunwala where in the solitary female role Anubha Fatepuria was simply marvelous. This role was played by ShaNoli Mitra in Bahurupi production. She too was exceptional. Once in the National Theatre Festival of Nandikar we have the opportunity to watch that of Aniket in Marathi directed by Amal Palekar. Badal Sarcar was present in the auditorium during that performance, though he was then no more with the proscenium and has taken side permanently to third theatre. Even I have the opportunity to be in the portico of Loreto House to watch and listen the vocal performance of Pagla Ghora by Badal Sarcar and his fellow members of Shatabdi. And that was the last public performance of Badal Sarcar so far as I know. But Pagla Ghora directed by Shambhu Mitra is simply unthinkable and in no way comparable to any Pagla Ghora of any kind. In Bahurupi after ‘Raja Oedipus’ of Sophocles and ‘Raja` of Rabindranath, Shambhu Mitra directed only four plays- Badal Sarcar`s ‘Baki Itihas’ (1967) &  Pagla Ghora (1971), Nitin Sen`s ‘Barbar BaNshi’ (1969) and Bijoy Tendulkar`s ‘Chop Adalat Colchchhe’(1971). Among the Bahurupi productions directed by Shambhu Mitra ‘Pagla Ghaora` is at the top scoring  with 122 shows which was  higher than  ‘Raja Oedipus’ (104 shows) and that of ‘Raktakarabi’ (62 shows).

Now let us take over to Badal Sarcar`s Third Theatre. Badal Sarcar on 23rd November 1981 wrote to internationally accepted theatre personality Richard Schechner about his journey through Third Theatre.

Calcutta, July 6, 1979. An old building in the congested College Square area occupied by the Theosophical Society of India for more than ninety years. The lecture hall on the second story, 58 feet long and 24 feet wide, with its old dusty cupboards full of books on Theosophy and faded oil paintings of potentates of Theosophy—given to Satabdi on hire every Friday after much persuasion.  First performance of Basi Khabar. Culmination of a year long process. The first experience of Satabdi of creating a play collectively. Year long but what is a year? None of the Satabdi members are paid anything. They work in banks, schools, offices, factories; they assemble in evenings exhausted by loveless work and sardine packed public transport; they have to disperse early for long journeys, many by scandalously irregulars suburban trains. On Sundays we can work for five hours, provided we are not invited to perform somewhere a village, a “bustee” (slum), a suburban town, a college lawn, an office canteen. Shows on Friday evenings; Thursday evenings spent on the rehearsal of the play to be performed the next day.

How much time can we get for working on a new project? Eight hours in a week is an optimistic average. Still, a year means that we all grow with the play for one full year, and the play gets into our bloodstream. One year back. July, 1978. First performance of Gondi—an adaptation I made of The Caucasian Chalk Circle. We felt good. We enjoyed preparing it—only fifteen performers taking care of forty roles; hut, stream, door, trees, bridge made of human bodies. We all felt that the play is Indian and contemporary and can be understood equally by the educated of the city and the illiterate of the village, and our later experience proved this belief to be correct.

It was the third year of our regular weekly performances at the Theosophical Society hall. Before that we have had two years of such weekly shows in another room (1972-1974), and a spell of nearly two years of only open air shows. Performances in public parks were stopped by the police during the “Emergency” (1975) and our search for an indoor space ultimately brought us to this hall in early 1976. Admission was free; a donation of one Rupee (eleven cents, a cup of coffee in a shabby cafe costs more in Calcutta) was expected and was willingly paid by most, but that was not the condition for entrance. Leaflets containing the program for the next five or six Fridays were distributed to the spectators, otherwise we depended entirely on word of mouth publicity. (I am using the past tense because we now perform in another hall the system has remained the same.) The relation between acting and sitting areas varied according to the demand of the play. For Gondi we could provide about 125 seats, all seats were booked much in advance, and we felt good. That was the beginning of the year long process of creating Basi Khabar.’

I have seen ‘Gandi` by ‘Shatabdi’, the Third Theatre Group in two venues- one in Theosophical Society Hall, College Square and other at Sindhri Hall, Lindsay Street. Though most of the then players are no more with Shatabdi –the group founded by Badal Sarcar himself, but there are still some who are within this protracted struggle and has dedicated themselves for Third Theatre Movement. At that time watching Gandi, having 40 characters enacted by only 15, was an enormous experience.

Specially during those days Brecht`s Caucasian Chalk Circle was adopted and directed by RudraPrasad Sengupta, produced by Nandikar as ‘Kharir Gandi’, where Swatilekha made her debut in the lead role. At the same time Subrata Nandi another theatre personality of those days, adopted the same and directed as ‘Khari Matir Gandi’ under the banner of Theatre Front. Under these circumstances Gandi was a different type of challenge. But with only fifteen performers taking care of forty roles; hut, stream, door, trees, bridge made of human bodies’ Badal Sarcar`s Gandi was superb and the best among the three then productions of Calcutta. This paved the Golden Gateway of Third Theatre movement proposed by Badal Sarcar.

But never ever the track of this movement was smooth. Since it is anti establishment in nature, and since proscenium is by and large an establishment and since Third Theatre basically speaks for the oppressed and raises voice against power, so it is prone to be the many fold target of the establishment and the ruler as well. These are all theoretical problems. But it has to face two major practical problems as well. Number one is the space problem. At the moment

Kolkata has very little space for this alternative theatre. The open space inside Rabindra Sadan campus and that in front of Academy Of Fine Arts are fixed for this alternative theatre on Saturdays only and at Natya Academy there is Tripti Mitra Sabha Ghar for this purpose. These three places are abided by certain indispensible Government rules and regulations. At Ripon Street there is Proscenium Art Centre where there is a big room for the alternative theatre and at Padatik they have a build well for Third Theatre or Alternative theatre as you call it. And direct followers of Badal Sarcar are doing very recently at Niranjan Sadan Jadavpur. But once upon a time there were good numbers of spaces in Kolkata. But still like past (‘For Gondi we could provide about 125 seats, all seats were booked much in advance’) direct followers of Badal Sarcar are making their house full of audience till date.

In this context another important feature is to be mentioned where the directors perform in both the spaces – proscenium and outside proscenium as well.  There are also certain productions which are played in both the places. In Sarala Memotial Hall adjacent to Gokhel Memorial College, where the film clubs used to arrange their projections, and in the open space inside the auditorium Total Theatre once did their marvelous ‘Byas` written by Shajada Firdaus and directed by Shantanu Banerjee. Here I have seen Bibhash Chakraborty to direct Shakespeare`s As You Like It in an intimate form. Suman Mukherjee did his outstanding ‘Kangal Malshat’ (Tritio Sutra) written by Nabarun Bhattachariya at Padatik build well in an intimate form and at Academy Of Fine Arts proscenium as well. The same experiment was done by his father Arun Mukherjee with his ‘Manush Kingba Kolbalish’(Chetana) at Tripti Mitra Sabhaghar in an intimate form and at Academy Of Fine Arts proscenium. The Unity Malancha of Halishahar did their Hanua Ka Beta in open air and at the same time in proscenium both directed by Debashish Sarcar. Belghoria ETHIC under the leadership of Debashish Sengupta once had confined it in intimate form, but now they feel comfortable in proscenium. In Kolkata there are good numbers of groups who strictly perform intimate theatre and never run for proscenium. Bhibhaban is such a group who has ventured several spaces in Kolkata. Once I have watched their performances in a room of YMCA at Vivekananda Road. Later they did it at Proscenium Art Centre at Ripon Street and now they are performing at Tripti  Mitra Sabhaghar. Another strictly non proscenium performer is Anarjya who used to perform at portico of Taltala High School and now at Tripti Mitra. But Shatabdi, Pathasena and Ayna who are direct followers of Badal Sarcar never ever done their performances in an air conditioned space like Tripti Mitra Sabhaghar or Padatik build well. Ayna once performed at air conditioned Proscenium Art Centre. Once there were very active non- proscenium groups who used to perform earlier. But for various reasons the days of third theatre or intimate theatre or open air theatre are not going well now.

To conclude we will deal with a theoretical aspect and a practical aspect as well. For proscenium there in Kolkata we have 15 auditoriums altogether of which some belong to private ownership and excepting one all are air conditioned. But for theatres outside proscenium there are very few little rooms left out. If we try to brand Kolkata as the cultural capital of West Bengal, then this small arrangement for other theatres makes this nomenclature derogative. In United States, as we all know, there is Broadway, Off Broadway and Off Off Broadway. Moreover very recently in the Lincoln Complex a very good space has been allotted for alternative theatres. The third theatre workers do not desire so much. But it is the responsibility of the authority to arrange some respectable space for these theatre workers.

The theoretical aspect demands unity between the proscenium and the alternative theatre workers. Nowadays it appears that as per production cost is concerned sky has become the limit for proscenium productions. The expenditure for the same for Raja Lear was one million rupees.  Cost per show is not less than sixty thousand rupees. This huge expenditure reminds us of Badal Sarcar- Theatre to them is commodity. To market this commodity one needs glittering colored package. Dress- light- sound –everywhere there are shining packets to mesmerize audience. This huge magnitude of production cost does in no way keep pace with the statistics stating that, 77% of our population is in a way to afford rupees 20 or less per day for their livelihood. To keep pace with this situation we have only one way to combat. The theatre lovers who really love theatre and at the same time love poor people of our country and strongly believe that their theatre should be seen by the people of India by and large, then they will have to unite together whether they are with proscenium or outside. And with this thought process we conclude by quoting Badal Sarcar once again.

“This process, of course, can become widespread only when the socio economic movement for the emancipation of the working class has also spread widely. When that happens, the third theatre (in the context I have used) will no longer have a separate function, but will merge with a transformed first theatre.”


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- Pachu Ray