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Seagull Books is a publishing venture begun in Kolkata in 1982 by Naveen Kishore, a theater practitioner. It began primarily as a response to the growing need for an Indian publishing house for theater and the other arts and since then it has expanded its operations to include translations of world literature as well as twentieth-century critical theory and non-fiction. At present, the company has registered divisions in London and New York alongside its initial establishment in Kolkata.
Beginning with the series New Indian Playwrights which translated the work of regional Indian playwrights into English, the project grew to accommodate film scripts, especially post-production film scripts. The function of English in India as a link language made it possible for plays composed in the regional languages to be brought onto the same platform and thereby widening the scope of national theater.The series attempted to enhance important play scripts with additional material to provide the interested student, scholar, theater person and reader with more complete access to the script. Theater, the cinema, theoretical writings on the cinema and art made up the initial catalogue of Seagull Books and since its inception, its focus has always laid in the direction of what might be termed as 'the human condition'.
One of the ways Seagull circumvented the problem of being limited to the status of an small independent publishing house catering to a niche market was by securing international distributing that would source its books to a global audience. At present, the University of Chicago Press holds the distribution rights for Seagull Books throughout the world, except India, where it is distributed by Atlantic Publishers and Distributors. This is not co-publication venture; Seagull generally holds world rights for its books.
Seagull Arts and Media Resource Centre
In 1987, Naveen Kishore founded the Seagull Foundation for the Arts which was to function as a not for profit charitable trust. Under that trust, various activities are carried out, one of which has been the Seagull Arts and Media Resource Centre. The Resource Centre possesses a vast Arts library where for a nominal sum, one can become a member. Along with the Arts library, there are film and music libraries. Various activities related to performance in the arts are organized and carried out by the Resource Centre; ranging from dance recitals, play readings, photography exhibitions, book reviews to theater workshops. His background in showcasing in the arts helped Naveen Kishore channelise his energy into the Resource Centre. The selling and showcasing of art acts as fundraisers for the revenue earned on the books is not always enough since most of the books published by Seagull are slow sellers and selling the art helps the company to raise money for its non profit enterprises as well as some of the profit activities.
Seagull Foundation for the Arts
The Foundation creates and presents arts exhibitions, major retrospectives by senior artists, focuses on non-saleable aspects or areas of an artist's work that commercial galleries are reluctant to exhibit and conducts research and documents the life and work of respected artists such as the late Nirode Mazumdar.It carries out video-biography projects using the mainstream medium of television to share the lives and professional histories of important artists and translates contemporary plays by playwrights in Bengali, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Malayalam, Kannada and Manipuri.It has also initiated a Theater for Change project with funding from the UK-based Network for Social Change and collaborates with two Calcutta NGOs that work with women victims of violence and with children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Within the Seagull Foundation for the Arts, PeaceWorks, which is a separate organization, was initially begun as a direct response to the Godhra riots of 2002, during which time it was felt that the religious polarization between the Hindu and the Muslim communities needed to be addressed and examined. PeaceWorks thus began with discussing the Hindu-Muslim divide with young children, making them watch films, encouraging them to participate in theater and talk about this difference. Instead of restricting PeaceWorks to just the religious issue, it now talks about living with difference. This could be any kind of difference: physical, sexual or related to gender. It tackles and exposes children to the idea of difference through the arts. Though PeaceWorks is a not for profit charitable trust under the Seagull Foundation for the Arts and has no immediate or direct link with Seagull Books, being an independent organization in itself, there is a great deal of crossover between the two establishments. Being a relatively small organization, staff members from Seagull Books often collaborate on PeaceWorks’s projects and help in organizing its events.
At present, each book published is classified under one of the several series heads.
- Seagull World Literature
- Swiss List
- German List
- French List
- In Performance
- Offence Series
- Censorship Series
- Conversation Series
- What Was Communism?
- Selected Works of Mahasweta Devi
- Selected Works of Utpal Dutt
- Selected Works of Badal Sircar
- Culture Studies
- New Indian Playwrights
- Performance Theory
- Seagull Filmscripts
- Film Theory