Pioneering playwright and theatre activist Badal Sircar no more | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 16, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, May 16, 2011

Pioneering playwright and theatre activist Badal Sircar no more

Noted Bengali playwright Badal Sircar, one of the pioneers of street plays and absurd theatre in India, died of cardiac arrest at his house in Kolkata on Friday after protracted illness. He was 86.
Known for his plays like "Baaki Itihash", "Ebong Indrajeet", "Pagla Ghoda" and "Juloos", Sircar was one of the torch-bearers of the “alternative theatre” movement which brings the art form out of proscenium into the public arena where actors wear the costume no different from people in day-to-day life in order to reach out to them. The idea was to break the barrier between the performer and the spectator.
Sircar triggered a new wave of experimental theatre that captured the imagination of the people, particularly the youth. He believed that theatre is a collective exercise to awaken the social consciousness of all participants, including viewers.
Deviating from the linear narration and conventional stage techniques, he promoted the concept of "Angan Mancho", that is performance in public areas like parks, courtyards and terrace rather than confined to theatre halls or the traditional stage.
Badal Sircar was interested in theatre and culture since his childhood. He studied civil engineering at the Bengal Engineering College, Shibpur, and finished his Master of Arts in comparative literature from Jadavpur University.
Sircar's career in theatre began in 1951 when he adapted "Cinderella" into a play from his sister's text book. The playwright later shifted to London where he did a course in town planning and was influenced by theatre stalwarts like Joan Littlewood, Anthony Serchio, Richard Schechner of the Performance Group and Polish director Jerzy Grotoswki in the 1960s.
After his stay in Nigeria and France as a town planner, Sircar founded his own theatre group 'Shatabdi' in 1976, a new wave troupe that took Sircar's plays to Kolkata's Surendranath Park to involve the audience.
Sircar entered the stage as an actor but soon started writing and directing plays. He shot to limelight after writing "Ebong Indrajit", a landmark play in Indian theatre which was first published and performed in 1965. He sustained his fame with plays such as "Baaki Itihash", "Tringsho Shotabdi", "Pagla Ghoda", "Shesh Nahi" and "Juloos".
His anti-establishment plays address issues such as the alienation and angst of the post-Independence unemployed urban youth and insensitivity of the urban middle-class.
Sircar was honoured with the Padma Shri in 1972 and four years before that the Sangeet Natak Akademi award.

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