wiki:Calcutta Theatres

Version 5 (modified by Lawrence Liang, 12 years ago) (diff)


Calcutta Theatres

Commercial theatre movement in late 19th and early 20th C. Calcutta, drawing on 18th C. British amateur theatricals, Gerasim Lebedeff’s (1749-1817) influential Bengally Theatre (Est: 1795) and ‘private’ theatres from which emerged the first major Bengali playwright, Michael Madhusudhan Dutt (1824-73). Cultural and economic pinnacle coincided with the career of writer-actor Girishchandra Ghosh (1844-1912), first at National Theatre and later Minerva Theatre (1893-1912), including Ghosh’s mythologicals, Dwijendralal Roy’s historicals and Khirode Prasad Vidyavinode’s musicals (notably Alibaba). Influenced by the Shakespearean Parsee Theatre, a realist current contemporaneous with the reformist Bengali novel (e.g. Dinabandhu Mitra’s Nildarpan, staged by National in 1872, about the condition of peasants in Bengal’s indigo plantations) and by operatic ballet in the Madan repertories.

Also significant was the mediation of amateur theatre in Shantiniketan and Jorasanko: Rabindranath Tagore’s musical theatre (Tasher Desh, Balmiki Pratibha) and dance dramas (Chandalika, Chitrangada), e.g. by Modhu Bose’s Calcutta Amateur Players. Early 20th C. stage industry counted many very successful companies usually owned by rich financiers and run by manager-impresarios. They had a determinating impact on the early Bengali film industry (see Hiralal Sen and Madan Theatres). Conventionally, modern 20th C. Bengali theatre dates back to Star Theatres’ 1923 production of Karnarjun (starring Ahindra Choudhury, Naresh Mitra and Durgadas Bannerjee). Sisir Bhaduri’s plays at Natyamandir later provided a generic backdrop to radical ‘group’ theatre movements launched in early 40s (see Utpal Dutt). The era of the great public theatres was later often evoked in films as pre-war nostalgia or as the nascent origin of Bengal’s mass-culture industry (e.g. the New Theatres’ Abhinetri/ Haar Jeet, 1940 and Meri Bahen, 1944). Established several key genres, including the historical and mythological, for the cinema as much as for the popular Jatra theatre.