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Bengal theatre is still acting driven: Shuvashis Sinha

Shuvashis Sinha
Shuvashis Sinha had formed a theatre group in Bangladesh when he was 18. Now, at 33, he is coming down to Kolkata for the first time to stage " Kohe Birangana" - an adaptation of Michael Madhusudan Dutt's "Birangana" - as part of the Maitree Bandhan Literary Festival presented by The Times of India. Excerpts from an interview with the director:

How did your journey of forming Manipuri Theatre being?

I am a Manipuri based in Bangladesh and there are close to 70,000 Manipuris in this country. Soon after clearing my Class XII exams, I decided to form a theatre group. At present, my group has 50 members between the age group of 15 and 40. In our 15 years of theatrical journey, we have staged 27 plays, including "Sree Krishna Kirtan", "Bhanubil" and "Debotar Gras".

Isn't language any barrier when you are performing to an audience that doesn't understand Manipuri?

We perform in a language called Bishnupriya Manipuri. Beyond linguistic communication, our theatre comes alive with voice modulation and physical drama. I have adapted Michael Madhusudan Dutt's Birangana Kavya and since it is difficult to translate his Bengali idiom to Manipuri, we decided to go with the original verse and add our Manipuri dance movements. The play articulates four verses among 11 from the original text. Jyoti Sinha will be playing four different characters - Shakuntala, Draupadi, Dushala and Jona - in the play. Apart from her, the play will also have four other dancers on stage.

Having done your Masters from the Jahangirnagar University in dramatics, why don't you feature in your plays?

During my early days of theatre, I used to act as well. We are a rural group and there are lots of challenges that we need to negotiate. It's become difficult to direct and act simultaneously.

How connected are you with the theatre scene in India?

As a student in Dhaka, I watched performances by Indian groups. Last year, I was in Santiniketan to attend a workshop in dramatics. I have loved the plays of Saoli Mitra, Swatilekha Sengupta, Rudraprasad Sengupta, Manoj Mitra, Bratya Basu, Kaushik Sen and Bibhas Chakraborty. I wish, I could see live performances of Utpal Dutt and Sombhu Mitra.

Is there any difference between the way India and Bangladesh approaches theatre?

Theatre in Bengal is still very acting driven. We are trying to experiment in terms of design by merging idiom used in folk and urban performance arts. That trend hasn't yet kicked off in Bengal yet. I wish we could stage an Indo-Bangla collaborative theatre production that will see a marriage of great acting and experimentation with form. It would be ideal if we can stage Tagore's "Raja" or "Dak Ghar" in this format.

Courtesy: Times of India
Photo Courtesy: Facebook

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