History of the theatre groups in West Bengal
Despite the fact that, the theatre art is being practiced in Bengal since 1770s, its modern form has the origin with the Indian freedom struggle. However, it started as private entertainment in the early 19th century; it later served as a foremost tool in the Indian freedom struggle. Bengali drama has a deep seated relation with folk theatres in India, specific to West Bengal, in forms like Kabigan and Kirtan dance, and Baul songs, Chhau, Gajan, Jatra and even Paalagaan, which were then mainly performed in open grounds of Bengal. These different performing art styles not only gave birth to the modish concept of Bengali theatre but paved the way for professional theatres and also ushered in the concept of establishing the theatre companies in West Bengal.
Development of the theatre groups in West Bengal
With the development of the various theatre companies in West Bengal, Bengali theatre gained that boost that it required. The major theatre companies in West Bengal teamed with the unorganized theatre groups then started illustrating the tears, agony, happiness and fears of million Bengalis. Just not the major theatre companies in West Bengal even the amateur theatre associations then aided in carrying Bengali drama to the next level of maturity whilst illustrating the modish aspects of Indian ‘Natya’ in the most vibrant way.
Professional theatre companies in West Bengal started growing since 1795 and were taken into maturity by the awesome performance and illustrious conductors like Girish Ghosh, Dwijendra Lal Roy, Sisir Bhaduri, Ardhendu Mushtafi and others.
The major breakthrough in Bengali theatre occurred, however, with the introduction of the seed of communism in Bengali theatre. With the scaffolding of Nabanna, written by a communist playwright and actor Bijan Bhattacharya and with the establishment of the various theatre companies in West Bengal, and of course with the establishment of Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA). In 1942, Bengali theatre gained that desired contour whilst ushering in a new era of cultural awakening among the people of India. This was the time when the Bengali intelligentsia witnessed the enculturation in Indian Drama.
Some of the major theatre groups in West Bengal are as follows:
Bohurupee: Bohurupee is a Bengali foremost theatre group. Bohurupee was founded in 1948 by some active members who left the Indian People's Theatre Association. The group was created to present the tentative Bengali drama in extraordinary form. This group has received the award of Airlines cultural organization for its contribution to Bengali Theatre.
Nandikar: Nandikar is a theatre group in India. The group has its headquarters in Kolkata in the state of West Bengal, but works around the world. The group's premature productions were mostly adaptations of non-Indian plays. Nandikar frequently performs all over India. Throughout the last decade, the group has performed in some countries outside India, including Bangladesh, Germany, Sweden, UK, and United States.
Anya Theatre: Anya Theatre was founded by Bengali theatre personality Bibhas Chakraborty in the year 1985. It has been conducting ‘Natyaswapnakalpo’, a theatre - related annual program being held on the New Year’s Eve ever since 1999, connecting the entire theatre union of the state.
Swapnasandhani: It was set up by Bengali theatre/ film personality Koushik Sen in 1992; it is famous for its founder’s acting and directorial skills. With more than 12 full length plays and 14 short ones this group has impressed a remarkable position for itself in the Kolkata theatre path. They experiment in various genres like social issues, science fiction, psychological thrillers and even adaptations of novels. Their talented artists, high eminence of work and sincerity to trialing has made this group one of the most talented and booming ones in the City.
Rangakarmee: It was headed by theatre activist, actor, playwright, and director Usha Ganguly since 1976. Rangakarmee is one of the forge theatre groups in Kolkata. Though they have produced a few Bengali plays, they are chiefly famous for taking ahead Hindi theatre. This group runs a repertory theatre with one of the largest group of members in the country. They also assist a section dedicated to children’s theatre named “Rangoli” as well as a musical band called “RangaSuravi”. Rangakarmee uses the stage to heave its voice against social issues, oppressions and immorality.
Sanglap: Founded in 1979, Sanglap with the aim of building theatre more reachable and logical by the masses, this group is still going strong with an impressive collection of full length plays and one act plays to boast of. Their plays are theatrical, powerful and impactful, thus drawing honor from critics and common people alike. This group has also been organizing an annual drama festival named Sanglap Natyotsab since 1993, which brings in participants from not only India, but also Bangladesh and Hong Kong.
Sayak: Founded back in 1973, since then, this group has worked hard towards presenting the art of contemporary theatre in a creative way, taking ahead the artistic heritage of Bengal. Under the directorship of Meghnad Bhattacharya, Sayak has staged several full-length as well as short plays, creating a lasting impression in the hearts of theatre-fans.
The Arshinagar Project: The Arshinagar Project has been creating magic since its beginning in 2011. A mixture of actors, dancers, musicians, educators, young adults and such, this group explores the various shades of mystical, folk and tribal traditions through all kinds of presentation arts. Their ways of working include performances, workshops, seminars, and lecture-shows in different kinds of settings - both urban as well as natural. The Arshinagar Project conducts workshops for all kinds of people and at the end of the day; this shared wants to harbor the spirit of freedom, respect, harmony and love among human beings through their practices.
Some theatre companies like Chetana, Sundaram etc are being established to re-interpret and integrate the significant facts of people's lives in the present epoch. The journey of theatre companies in West Bengal is thus long but is rich unfolding the rich heritage of the changing traditions of Bengali theatre.