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Bengali theatre primarily refers to theatre performed in the Bengali language. Bengali theatre is produced mainly in West Bengal, and in Bangladesh. The term may also refer to some Hindi theatres which are accepted by the Bengali people.
Bengali theatre has its origins in British rule. It began as private entertainment in the early 19th century. In the pre-independence period, Bengali theatres played a pivotal role in manifesting dislike of the British Raj. After the independence of India in 1947, leftist movements in West Bengal used theatre as a tool for social awareness. This added some unique characteristics to the art form that still have strong effects. These groups differentiate themselves ideologically from commercial Bengali theatre.
The many theatres in West Bengal can be broadly divided into Kolkata-based theatres and rural theatres. Outside Bengali-speaking areas, the term "Bengali theatre" primarily refers to Kolkata-based groups, as the rural theatres are less well-known. The two types are similar in form and content, but the Kolkata-based theatres are better funded and staffed. This is mainly due to the influx of expertise from rural areas to Kolkata in search of a larger audience.
There are also Bengali folk theatres. There are many dialects of Bengali spoken in West Bengal and Bangladesh. The larger Bengali theatres use the dialect spoken in Kolkata, Bengali folk theatres have performances in some of the other Bengali dialects.
There is another category of Bengali theatre called Jatra, which is run commercially in rural West Bengal and Bangladesh. The most prominent characteristics of Jatra are over-acting and extensive use of traditional musical instruments. At present, Jatra has been modernized to feature crisis through stories.[clarification needed] Many popular Bengali film artists participate in Jatra.
Hindi theatres which are accepted by the Bengali people include the productions of Rangakarmee (estb. 1976) directed by Usha Ganguly, and productions by Padatik (estb. 1972) under Shyamanand Jalan, who started with Anamika in 1955.
The late 19th- and early 20th-century theatres had their own Bengali music. This form was pioneered by Girish Chandra Ghosh; the era of Bengali theatre before him laid the groundwork, and after his death Bengali theatre music became more experimental. During the era of Girish Chandra, all stage-plays included some form of traditional Bengali music, and dancer-singers who performed before and between the acts. Mythological plays would have Kirtan-anga songs, epics would include indigenous styles such as khyāmtā, and comedies and farcical plays often included tappā songs by Nidhu Babu.
Notable people: India
- Michael Madhusudan Dutta
- Dinabandhu Mitra
- Girish Chandra Ghosh
- Jyotirindranath Tagore
- Rabindranath Tagore
- Dwijendralal Ray
- Sisir Bhaduri
- Sambhu Mitra
- Utpal Dutt
- Ajitesh Bandopadhyay
- Badal Sarkar
- Mohit Chattopadhyay
- Rudraprasad Sengupta
- Manoj Mitra
- Bratya Basu
- Debesh Chattopadhyay
- Suman Mukherjee
- Goutam Halder
- Debshankar Haldar
- Kaushik Sen
- Arpita Ghosh
- Torit Mitra
- Jay Sengupta
- Baidyanath Chakraborty
Notable people: Bangladesh
- Nurul Momen
- Munir Chowdhury
- Selim Al Deen
- Mamunur Rashid
- Abdullah Al Mamun
- Aly Zaker
- Asaduzzaman Noor
Notable theatre groups: India
- Bratyajan West Bengal, India
- Bohurupee Kolkata, India
- Nandikar Kolkata, India
- Srijanee Socio Cultural Association, New Delhi, India
- Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA) and its branches
- Swapnasandhani Kolkata, India
- Swapnapheri Kolkata, India
- Mini Mime Mine Naihati, West Bengal, India
- Hypokrites Kolkata,West Bengal
- Kundu, Pranay K. Development of Stage and Theatre Music in Bengal. Published in Banerjee, Jayasri (ed.), The Music of Bengal. Baroda: Indian Musicological Society, 1987.
- Aparna Bhargava Dharwadker (2005). Theatres of independence: drama, theory, and urban performance in India since 1947. University of Iowa Press. p. 440. ISBN 0-87745-961-4.
- "Calcutta,home to Hindi Theatre". The Hindu. 29 October 1997.
- Bengali stage, 1795-1873, by Brajendra Nath Banerjee. Published by Ranjan Pub. House, 1943.
- Bengali theatre, by Kironmoy Raha. Published by National Book Trust, India, 1978.
- The story of the Calcutta theatres, 1753-1980, by Sushil Kumar Mukherjee. Published by K.P. Bagchi, 1982.
- The Bengali Drama: Its Origin and Development, by P. Guha-Thakurta. Published by Routledge, 2001. ISBN 0-415-24504-4. Excerpts
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