Golden era of group theatre movement

Golden era of group theatre movement

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The journey started on October 2, 1972. Celebrating the centenary of the Bengali stage, a band of theatre-loving youth sought to cultivate, learn, promote and to hold up the true spirit of the theatre formed a drama unit under the leadership of Sushanta Bandyopadhyay in the name of NAT-RANGA and became a part of the group theatre movement of the time. It was the golden era of the group theatre movement that boasted of stalwarts like Shambhu Mitra, Ajitesh Bandyopadhyay, Utpal Dutta, Manoj Mitra, Badal Sarkar, Bibhash Chakraborty and others. NAT-RANGA joined this movement with the directorial guidance of Sushanta Bandyopadhyay and marked their presence through three one-act plays like MUKHOSH by Prabodh Chandra Ghosh, NISHIR DAAK by Amar Gangopadhyay and KABAYAH by Banaphool.

Within a short span of time, these productions started adding feathers to the cap of the organization as numerous awards came on its way from different national and state- level theatre competitions. Among those the awards for the Best Production, Best Direction and Best Acting for the play KABAYAH in AKHIL BHARATIYA LAGHU NATAK PRATIYOGITA organized in Allahabad by Allahabad Natya Sangha created a milestone in the history of the organization.

Then, a number of productions came which were highly appreciated and praised by the theatre lovers of the country. Productions like BHITTI by Tulsi Lahiri, KABI KAHINI by Badal Sarkar, BIDHI O BYATIKROM by Soumitra Chattopadhyay, received overwhelming appreciation. With this solid theatre experience behind him, Sushanta Bandyopadhyay, a follower of Sishir Bhaduri’s school of acting and an associate of Habib Tanvir, took up the challenge to stage two of the most acclaimed productions like SADHABAR EKADOSHI by Dinabandhu Mitra and FAZAL ALI AASCHAY by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay (dramatized by Amar Gangopadhyay). These two productions rocked the Bengali stage for a span of more than five years and are still well talked about by the theatre critics of the country. Numerous awards and appreciations by the press thus made NAT-RANGA a distinct name in the Kolkata group theatre scenario. Expectation level of theatre lovers reached its peak with those productions and subsequently experimental plays like KHADDA by Syed Mustafa Siraj (dramatized by Amar Gangopadhyay), DIBANISHI by Kallol Chakraborty were staged. Also other plays like BEKAR BIDYALANKAR by Manoj Mitra, KEYAKUNJA by Bibhuti Bhushan Mukhopadhyay, RATIKANTO DAROGA by Manoj Chattopadhyay, GRAASH by Shyamal Ghosh were staged in between. Then, a vital moment came in the history of the organization. It was a bold step in the world of Tagore’s plays. In 1989, NAT-RANGA staged MUKTADHARA by Rabindranath Tagore. The colossal stagecraft with 70 plus artistes and technicians performing hand in hand, lifted the spirit of the drama to great heights. Research oriented scheming, with usage of music and appropriate dialects, sound and light effects, highlighted the essence of the great literary work of Tagore. Praises from the audience and from the critics motivated the performance in each and every forthcoming show.

Meanwhile, the directorial aspects were taken over by Shyamal Ghosh, another member of the organization since the initial days and under his able guidance, productions like DIBANISHI by Kallol Chakraborty, HADISH by Amit Maitra, BHUT-ADBHUT by Kallol Chakraborty, KOLKATA 300 by the director himself were staged and were cordially welcomed by the audience.

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NAT-RANGA’s turning point came in 1997. A lot of new members joined the organization and with the directorial debut of Sohan Bandopadhyay, BHUT-ADBHUT was once again brought into the limelight with a lot of new experimentations. Use of strategic colours in experimental stagecraft, dress and make up and also the usage of Rabindrasangeet as background score gave it a distinct edge on the group theatre scene. The next production that took shape was GANOTANTRER NAAM JABONIKA. Set on the current sociopolitical scenario, this drama with the language of satire won the heart of the theatre lovers and was able to set a combination of good feeling and social thoughts in the minds of the audience.

Besides regular staging of productions, NAT-RANGA has been associated with a lot of other theatre-related activities. Regular organization and participation in theatre workshops, exhibitions, publication of magazines on theatre, etc have been a common exercise both by the members individually and organizationally. Different noted theatre personalities like Bibhash Chakraborty, Soumitra Basu, Dwijen Bandyopadhyay, Bratyo Basu, Kaushik Sen, Soumitra Chattopadhyay contributed a lot to these developmental activities of the organization.

Members of NAT-RANGA had the proud privilege to enact scenes from the plays like JAMIDAR DARPAN and NEEL DARPAN and were used in the short-film SWADHINOTA SANGRAMEY BANGLA directed by Jyotirmoy Roy and produced by the West Bengal government.

NAT-RANGA had the honour to host the maiden web magazine on Bengali theatre, It was launched on the millennium night. Later, e-magazine renamed as Currently, the publication has been discontinued and the members of the organization are working on it to give a new and contemporary look. Last five years…

Last five years have been extremely productive for the organization. Four blockbuster full length plays, — GANOTANTRER NAAM JABONIKA, DWIDHAKAAL, MEGAPODE and GULBAAJ, THE MAN OF THE MATCH (all written and directed by Sohan Bandopadhyay) — have rocked the auditoriums across the country creating extreme turbulence in the mind of the audience.

Besides, they have been regularly staging two one-act plays — KABAYAH by Banaphool and NISHIR DAAK by Amar Gangopadhyay.

Earlier, 2007 and 2008 had created milestones in the history of the organization. Two of the most successful and well appreciated productions of recent time — MEGAPODE and GULBAAJ, THE MAN OF THE MATCH — were launched successively in the last two years.

Nat-Ranga feels honoured to state that MEGAPODE received the renowned DIPENDRA SENGUPTA SMRITI PURASKAR for being the best production for 2007 and Sohan Bandopadhyay received the renowned SATYEN MITRA SMRITI PURASKAR for the best Bengali original script for 2008 for the blockbuster production GULBAAJ, THE MAN OF THE MATCH.

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NGI November 2013