Bivash Chakraborty is a veteran theatre personality based in Kolkata, India.
Entering into theatre arena as a young actor, he has come a long way to establish himself as one of the most influential theatre directors of Kolkata. He has seen the evolution of Kolkata's theatre scene very closely and played an active role in the process. The Daily Star caught up with the thespian during his recent visit to Dhaka to attend Loko Natyadal Banani's theatre fest. Excerpts:
How did you begin as a theatre activist?
Bivash Chakraborty: When I completed my BA in 1957 from Presidency College, I wanted to learn theatre production. Then I entered Bohurupi for one-year training on theatre to master the art from Sombhu Mitra. But I quit it after six months because Sombhu Mitra was busy and he barely trained me. In 1963, Ajitesh Bandopadhay called me to perform in Pirandello's “Six Characters in Search of an Author”. Then I entered his troupe Nandikar and that was my formal beginning.
Tell us about theatre in Kolkata at that time?
Bivash Chakraborty: Theatre was witnessing its golden age at that time with people like Sombhu Mitra and Utpal Dutta in the lead. Not only theatre but also the overall cultural scenario, especially film experienced a revolution in the 1950s, owing to a global change following the Second World War. However, the trend continued: new generation followed older generations. When that generation stepped aside, Mohit Chattopadhyay, Rudra Prasad, Monoj Mitra, Ashok Mukhopadhay and I came forward.
How was the cultural bonding between Kolkata and Dhaka at that time?
Bivash Chakraborty: Before the liberation war, cultural relations between Kolkata and Dhaka were not so warm. But after Bangladesh achieved independence, it fostered tremendously. In 1974, Bangabandhu arranged a cultural fair and many cultural personalities, poets, writer and intellectuals and organisations from India came to Dhaka. My troupe Theatre Workshop then came here and we staged Chakbhanga Modhu at Bangla Academy premises. We were supposed to stage one show but the response was massive and we staged a number of shows. We also recorded the show at BTV under Abdullah Al Mamun's supervision.
What's your take on the influence of Kolkata's theatre on Dhaka?
Bivash Chakraborty: Kolkata's group theatre movement tremendously influenced Bangladeshi theatre. I first met Aly Zaker, Asaduzzaman Noor, Ramendu Majumdar at a party at our cultural attaché's house in Kolkata.
Theatre personalities from Dhaka used to visit Kolkata to watch plays that influenced the cultural exchange. In 1971, a publication from Bangla Academy mentioned that theatre in Dhaka was inspired by Chakbhanga Modhu and Rajrokto – two major productions in Kolkata.
Do you see any change in the form of storytelling today?
Bivash Chakraborty: There are different kinds of drama and it doesn't necessarily have to tell stories. There are abstract types, but primarily its storytelling. It is a kind of presentation and being a performing art it includes a lot of things: art, performance, stage design, choreography, set design, story and acting. As the language of people changes with time, a certain change obviously take place in art -- and theatre, like everything else, goes through a natural change, though it is not always conspicuous.
How do you see the change of theatre in Bangladesh?
Bivash Chakraborty: At that time, there were both outstanding plays and mediocre plays and at present, it is still the same. But some troupes are pioneers in Bangladesh. Nagorik staged classics, while Aranyak focused on people and their struggles, and Selim Al Deen and Nasiruddin Yousuff brought a new trend in Bangladeshi theatre with Dhaka Theatre. I don't know much about young directors in Bangladesh, though.
Is it possible to take theatre as a profession in Kolkata?
Bivash Chakraborty: Like Dhaka, theatre is not professional in Kolkata.
Unless investors are investing money here and forming a structure, it can never be a profession. Theatre needs investment so that it takes the shape of an industry. Publication, music and film have become industries, but theatre is not, because no one invested here.