Group theatre of Kolkata
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The group theatre of Kolkata refers to a tradition in theatres in the Indian city Kolkata, which developed in the 1940s as an alternative to entertainment-oriented theatres. As opposed to commercial theatres, group theatre is "a theatre that is not professional or commercial", characterized by its tendency for experimentation in theme, content and production, and its aim of using the proscenium stage to highlight social messages, rather than having primarily making-money objectives.
IPTA and Nabanna
The play Nabanna in 1944 is said to be the birth of group theatres in Kolkata. Nabanna was written by Bijon Bhattacharya, who also co-directed it with Sambhu Mitra. They were both active members of the Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA), the association of leftist theatre-artists. In the commercial theatres at that time, entertainment was the sole purpose. However, the time was tumultuous—the Indian independence movement was strengthening on the backdrop of the World War 2, and the plight of Bengal province was further worsened by the Bengal famine of 1943. Activists and thinkers attempted to use the media of theatre to highlight the plight of the people, and to stage a form of artistic protest.
In this backdrop, the drama Nabanna portrayed a group of peasants as victim of the famine. The peasants had to leave their village due to famine, and they traveled to Kolkata with the hope for survival in the big city. However, they faced a series of crises and eventually got "...reduced to the most abject acknowledge poverty in Kolkata, where they develop a political awareness of their suffering". Another production of IPTA was Jobanbondi.
Notion of group
Prior to the start of group theatre movement, the commercial theatre of Kolkata strived to attract audiences based on star-power. Popular actors such as Sisir Bhaduri, Ahindra Chowdhury and others were considered consistent crowd-pullers. The group theatre tried to depart from this paradigm. Instead of superstars, the emphasis in group theatre was on the group—which was commonly an amalgamation of non-professional participants who identified themselves with the social motives of the movement and participated in the production out of passion for the art. The attempt was to make gononatyo (people's theatre).
Groups after IPTA
The initial group of IPTA dispersed in 1947. However, the principal members continued to carry the legacy of IPTA by forming several groups with similar ideology. Ahindra Chowdhuri, Sombhu Mitra and Tripti Mitra were the leading members of the group Bohurupee. Raktakarabi, Tahar Nam Ti Ranjana, Char Adhyay (written by Rabindranath Tagore) were some of the earlier productions of Bohurupee. Utpal Dutt led another faction of artists and went to create classics like Tiner Talowar and Kallol. In 1950s and 1960s, many critically acclaimed productions were staged, which used international literature including the works of Anton Chekhov, Luigi Pirandello, Henrik Ibsen and Bertolt Brecht. According to one critic, the productions had the "right mix of democratic politics — with certain groups drifting towards a revolutionary rhetoric — and humane ideals, based on literature drawn from the world over".
Prominent theatre personalities
- Ajitesh Bandopadhyay
- Badal Sarkar
- Kaushik Sen: Founded Swapnasandhani in 1992, for last two decades they have staged more than 40 plays.
- Nilkantha Sengupta : Founded Theatre Commune
- Dr. Debabrata Chakraborty: Founded Swapnapheri in 2001.
- Sombhu Mitra: Founder of Bohurupee, have directed plays like Rakta Karabi, Putul Khela etc.
- Rudraprasad Sengupta: associated with the group Nandikar
- Tripti Mitra: Tripti Mitra, wife of Sombhu Mitra, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award winner was mainly a worker of Bohurupee
- Usha Ganguly, founded Rangakarmee theatre group, in 1976.
- Utpal Dutt: Utpal Dutt authored, directed and acted in several plays.
- Debasish Dutta, founded Institute of Factual Theatre Arts (IFTA) in 1998.
- Arun Kumar Sarkar, founded Green Amateur Group in 1961 .
- Geir, Heierstad (2003). Nandikar: Staging Globalisation in Kolkata and Abroad (PDF) (Cand.polit.). University of Oslo. pp. 39–48. Retrieved 9 March 2012.
- Bhattacharya, Malini (2005). "Culture". In Bagchi, Jasodhara. The changing status of women in West Bengal, 1970–2000: the challenge ahead. New Delhi: Sage Publications. pp. 99–100. ISBN 978-0-7619-3242-0. Retrieved 10 February 2012.
- Zarilli, Phillip; McConachie, Bruce; Williams, Gary Jay; Sorgenfrei, Carol Fisher (2010) . Williams, Gary Jay, ed. Theatre Histories: An Introduction. Abingdon, UK: Rotledge. pp. 429–430. ISBN 978-0-415-46223-5. Retrieved 9 March 2012.
- Ghosh, Parimal (2012). "Rise and fall of Calcutta's group theatre: the end of a political dream" (PDF). Economic & Political Weekly (Economic and Political Weekly) 47 (10): 36–42. ISSN 0012-9976. Retrieved 9 March 2012.[dead link]
- Kasbekar, Asha (2006). Pop culture India!: media, arts, and lifestyle. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. pp. 83–85. ISBN 9781851096367.
- Leiter, Samuel (2007). Encyclopedia of Asian Theatre: A-N. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. p. 260. ISBN 9780313335303.