|Vienna Opera Backstage (pix courtesy wikipedia)|
My tryst with drama started when I was in kindergarten. I had the chance to perform on one of the oldest stages of Kolkata – Biswaroopa. Thereafter, I grew up and saw the IPTA and the Group Theatre movement in Kolkata. I saw Utpal Dutta, Shambhu Mitra, Sabitri Chatterji, Tripti Mitra, Keya Chakraborty, Shobha Sen, Soumitra Chatterji, Kumar Roy perform on the proscenium. I saw Ajitesh Bannerji perform Brecht’s Three Penny Opera, Pirandello’s 6 Characters In Search of a Playwright, and Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard. I saw Badal Sarkar’s Third Theatre plays. I participated in workshops by Badal Sarkar.
Gradually, I was drawn to theatre. I joined a professional theatre group. I worked with the Indian People’s Theatre Association. I did street plays. I did dance dramas. I participated in choirs. I worked backstage. I was part of crowd scenes. I sold tickets. I went out with fellow theatre activists sticking posters of shows on the walls, lampposts, railway stations, trains, buses and trams. I distributed leaflets and handouts. I helped in setting up the sets of plays. I dabbled in everything from music to light to make up to costume.
Then came a Central Theatre Workshop organised by the Paschimbanga Natya Akademi under the Department of Information & Culture, Govt. Of West Bengal. I passed the grueling interview session and qualified for the workshop. The workshop started at Girish Mancha, in Kolkata. Almost all the stalwarts of Bengali Theatre were there. They were kind, empathetic but very strict and disciplined. They put you to your place. They never spared to call a spade a spade. I found my calling. I decided whatever I do, I must do theatre. I might get into films, I might work in corporate, I might get into teaching but I must do theatre.
I started to work freelance and worked with numerous groups in Kolkata. I used theatre as a means of social communication and worked among the marginalized people of the society. I worked in slums and villages, with street children, the residents of correctional homes, the destitute and the sex workers. My work in theatre challenged me mentally and physically. I had to study. I had to improvise. I got to know my society better. I became a different person.
Theatre drove me to learn. It moved me out of my comfort zone. It made me think out of the box. I met new people – people from diverse backgrounds. Theatre made me face new challenges. It enabled me to be at the side of people come what may. Theatre and my work in it have given me immense satisfaction. I have derived pleasure from it. It has given me respect and recognition. It has taught me to move on in life, to accept new challenges. Hence I wish and desire to work specifically in the field of drama.