Thespian Usha Ganguly, known for her work in Hindi theatre, dies at 75

Kolkata: Eminent theatre personality Usha Ganguly died at her residence in south Kolkata on Thursday.

Ganguly, 75, was found motionless at her flat in the Lake Gardens area of the city by her maid around 7 am, her family said.

A doctor was called in who declared that she died of a massive cardiac attack a few minutes earlier, they said.

Ganguly is survived by a son but lived alone in her flat. Her husband Kamalendu died some years back.

Her brother died three days earlier.

She founded the Rangakarmee group in 1976, which is known for non-conformist productions like Mahabhoj, Rudali, Court Martial and Antaryatra.

Ganguly, who is credited for introducing a new form of alternative Hindi theatre in Bengal, used to say "theatre is my only life and passion and Rangkarmee is my family", her friends recalled.

Her Rangakarmee gave a separate idiom, a new language to theatre in Bengal and created a new audience, which had so far been familiar with Bengali group theatre and English theatre, in the late 70s and 80s.

Besides late thespian Shyamanand Jalan who was the founder of Padatik, Ganguly is credited to have ushered in the rich, glorious tradition of Hindi theatre in Kolkata having both Bengali and non-Bengali speaking audiences.

Her Bengali productions include Mukti and Manasi. She also worked with Rituparno Ghosh during the scripting for Raincoat.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee condoled her death.

Recalling Ganguly's contribution to theatre, she said the state government had conferred her with the 'Girish Samman' honour in 2016.

"My deep condolences to her family and friends and followers," the chief minister said in a statement in Bengali

She was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for direction in 1998 and also honoured by the West Bengal government as the 'Best Actress' for the play 'Gudia Ghar'.

Born in Jodhpur in a family originally hailing from Uttar Pradesh, Ganguly had shown her prowess in performing arts at a young age, learning Bharatanatyam.

She later moved to Kolkata and studied Hindi literature.

Director Aparna Sen, theatre personality Sohag Sen, director Sudeshna Roy and many other artistes from the theatre and film fraternity expressed shock over her death.

"I can't believe she is no more," Aparna Sen said.

Her last rites were performed in the presence of her family and members of Rangakarmee at the Keoratala crematorium.

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