The recently concluded theatre carnival at Silchar, Assam has raised a lot of enthusiasm and fanfare among theatre practitioners in the Barak Valley of Assam. The mega event evoked huge response to have a glimpse of some renowned theatre artistes on stage. This path-breaking initiative has been taken by the most active theatre group of Kolkata in recent times, ‘Kalindi Bratyajon’. The Minister of State for Information Technology of West Bengal and famous playwright, actor, director, Bratya Basu appeared to be equally excited about the event and its overwhelming response among the theatre enthusiasts of Silchar.
He said, “Silchar shares similar concern as that of Bengal when it comes to Bengali’s own language and culture. The craving for Band music and shopping malls is digressing the focus of the youth of our society at avery early age. Our cultural heritage is facing the biggest crisis ever since globalisation. People in Bengal are fortunate enough to watch quality theatre productions for the past few years in Bengal and this is a turning point of a cultural movement. Bengal has a deep rooted connection with the Barak Valley of Assam, the place which has been witness to a huge refugee displacement from Bangladesh in 1949. This was a major reason for choosing Silchar as a site for such a cultural exchange.”
‘Silchar Bratyajon’ presented this four-day theatre festival in association with the local theatre group, ‘Bhabikal’. The NGO, ‘Ashwas’ was in charge of the event management. Basu, known as the father of the concept ‘Company Theatre’, visited Silchar to review the preparation and to meet Arundhati Gupta, the Secretary of Ashwas.
The festival named ‘Silchare Bratyajon’ featured four different plays, directed by Basu. A group of 110 members were present at the venue to make it a memorable and historical event. The inaugural day saw the play Awdya Sesh Rajani, which is produced by Paikpara Indraranga and is based on the life of the theatre practitioner, Asim Chakraborty. The narrative highlights the struggle of an actor, director in his theatrical journey. Many have declared this play to be the best directed play by Basu so far. Anirban Bhattacharjee played the anchor role in the play. Meghe Dhaka Tara, an epic cinema of Ritwik Ghatak, revolves around the family of a poor teacher, staying at a refugee colony after independence. A play based on the film was also staged, which touched the sentiments of the people of Silchar who experienced similar plight post-independence. The audience was awe-stuck on seeing the production, given the directorial treatment of the play accompanied by the superlative acting of the famous artistes, Subhasish Mukherjee and Poulomi Basu on stage.
On day three, people of Silchar saw the most explosive production of all times, Boma, a Kalindi Bratyajon production. The play is a research work by Basu on the pre-independence revolutionary movements in Bengal featuring noted personalities such as Arabindo Ghosh, Barin Ghosh, Hem Chandra Kanungo, etc. as participants. The play also focused on the much disputed role of Sri Aurobindo in the movement lucidly on stage, played by the thespian Debshankar Halder.
The biopic of an eminent Rabindra sangeet exponent was the theme of the last day’s play, Ruddhasangeet, written by Bratya Basu.
The festival drew to a close amidst cheers and a standing ovation from the audience, followed by the felicitation of Basu. He was honoured by the director of the theatre troupe ‘Bhabikal’, Shantanu Paul, who presented him with a replica containing the photographs of the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the language in the movement of 1961.
In his concluding speech Basu said, “There is no denying of the fact that theatre is my root. I am involved in politics and I’m doing theatre simultaneously. Politician Bratya Basu and theatre artiste Bratya Basu are walking side by side following non-convergent, parallel paths. I believe theatre is the alternative voice with no-censorship so far, unlike cinema. We need to capitalise on this cautiously. We need to continuously strive to give our best on stage. These activities must be continued to embrace the concept of ‘Company Theatre’ which is our only future. It is a continuous struggle for the theatre practitioners which we need to support.”
Shantanu Paul expressed his happiness by saying, “Guwahati and Kolkata conduct big theatre festivals quite often but Silchar, for the first time has organised such an event. This is a dream come true and will definitely be an experience worth remembering, for us. I am thankful to Bratyajon for taking such initiative for the people of the valley. The audience has witnessed something which they have never experienced before and which will be cherished in their memories forever.”