Mahabharata Episode 6 : A Show of Arms

Kunti and Karna

Kunti and Karna

In this episode of the stories from Mahabharata, Drona arranges for a grand show where his students, the Kuru princes demonstrate their prowess with arms. Arjuna dazzles the audience by his prowess with a variety of arms and weapons. But suddenly Karna enters the arena and the story takes a dranstic turn which none could have expected. Listen to this episode on the player below, or by subscribing to this podcast on iTunes.

Mahabharata: Episode 5 – The Guru Arrives

Drona tests his students

Drona tests his students

In this episode, Guru Dronacharya arrives in Hastinapura and awes the Kuru princes with his skills. Bhishma retains him as the royal arms and weapons trainer for the Pandava and Kaurava brothers. Arjuna excels in archery. Ekalavya, a tribal boy, comes to Drona to learn from him. Drona refuses to accept him as a student. But Ekalavya masters the art of archery by practicing in front of a statue of Dronacharya for which he had to pay the ultimate guru dakshina.

Listen to the podcast below or subscribe in iTunes store (free.)

 

North America Bengali Conference 2014

Srijato

Srijato

Once again, the North America Bengali Conference (NABC) or Bongo Sammelan, is welcoming the Bengalis of the world to get together for a fun filled weekend.  This time, Orlando, Florida is hosting the NABC. Like previous years, star performers from overseas will be gracing the Hyatt Orlando stages to entertain the attendees from all over the country. I won’t get into those details since you can find all that information on NABC website. Rather, I’d like to talk to you about some of the events which receive less attention from the audience as well as the organizers. Events for which you’ll only find some sketchy details on the website, if any at all.

The first event I’d like to draw your attention to, is the Literary Seminar (as I am responsible in arranging this event). We all appreciate that literature is the primary cornerstone of any culture, and we, the Bengalis, are proud to have a great literary legacy. But in NABC these days, the literary events  happen quietly in one of the hidden meeting rooms. You’d be lucky if you can find the room. But interested people do find their way. A total of eight hours (over the two days) would be dedicated to the literary events which consists of seminars, panel discussion, poetry and prose reading sessions. This year, we have two accomplished poets from Kolkata, Srijato and Binayak Bandopadhyay.  They, along with some of our local authors, will talk about the creative process. How an inspiration gets transformed to a poem or prose, will be the topic of discussion. A panel discussion, featuring some of the most active people involved in promoting Bengali literature in USA and UK, will talk about their experiences and their challenges. We will also have poetry reading sessions, and a special Flash Fiction (or micro-story) session. So, please drop by and spend some quality time with Bengali literature.  Continue reading

Mahabharata : Episode 4 – The Conflict Begins

Young Bheema fight with the Nagas

Young Bheema fight with the Nagas

The stories of Mahabharata continues. The conflict between the Pandava brothers and the Kaurava brothers began at an early age.  In this episode we learn of the first attempt by the Kaurava brothers, primarily Duryodhona and Duhsashana, to eliminate their arch rival Bheema. The story gives us a glimpse of the extent to which the Kauravas could go to achieve their goals. Enjoy and do not forget to give your feedback.

(Note: You can also subscribe to this series (for free) as podcast on iTunes store or any other podcast aggregator. Just search for Mahabharata and Bhawmik.)

Mahabharata: Episode 3 – Birth of the Kuru Princes

Pandu Hunts the Deer Couple.

Pandu Hunts the Deer Couple.

The stories of Mahabharata continues. In this episode we learn about the birth of the Kuru princes, the Pandavas and the Kauravas. We also learn about the tragic death of King Pandu caused by a curse from the dying sage Kindama.

Audio engineering and sound design by Avi Ziv.

Jatra – A Bengali Tradition

Noti Binodini

Noti Binodini

I grew up in a small campus town where entertainment options were quite limited.  We did have some limited opportunities to watch cinema during the weekends, but that was rare. So we all waited for the Jatra companies to visit our town after the Puja’s with their exciting performances. Months before the show, monochrome or dual tone lithographic posters printed on thin paper covered the walls, lamp posts, even tree trunks all around the town. Publicists of the show organizers announced the details of the upcoming Jatra festival using a battery powered portable PA system mounted on a cycle rickshaw and threw dozens of colorful handbills in the air.  Weeks before the festival,  walls made of corrugated tin enclosed a large football (soccer) field. The top covered with tarp supported by wooden poles. Inside, in the center of the field, was a square stage built on wooden platforms where the actors performed.  The actors entered and exited through a ramp leading from the dressing rooms to the stage. On either side of the stage, at a slightly lower level,  sat the musicians who played live music with harmonium, trumpet, cymbals, tabla, dholak, flute etc. The contents of the plays ranged from mythological to historical to social issues.   Continue reading

Mahabharata : The Greatest Story Ever Told – Episode 2

Listen to the second episode of “The Mahabharata”. In this episode, we learn about the plight of Amba, and the story of the birth of Pandu, Dhritarashtra and Vidur.

In Conversation with a Director

Suman Mukhopadhyay

Suman Mukhopadhyay

Recently Suman Mukhopadhyay was in town. He had come to New York to attend the screening of his latest film “Sesher Kabita” (The Last Poem) which is yet to release commercially. Mriitika of New Jersey (a non profit organization dedicated to the promotion of Indian culture and heritage in USA), led by Dhriti Bagchi, arranged for a screening of the film at the Marlboro Library. The show started at 5:45pm on a weekday afternoon (Monday to be precise), but the film managed to attract a full house. I went to the film with lot of apprehension.  Making a film from a classic text, and that too one written by Rabindranath Tagore, is no easy task.  ”Sesher Kabita” is one of the most read novels of Tagore and each of us have created in us our own mental movie of this romantic text. And this movie often conflicts with the one projected on the screen. But for me, the film was a pleasant surprise. Suman managed to capture the romanticism in a beautifully orchestrated series or images and moments that keeps you glued to the seat just to enjoy the poetry being projected.

Later, during the Q&A, Suman informed us that the film was commissioned to him by the Government of India to commemorate Rabindranath Tagore’s 150th anniversary in 2011. He also answered several question on the film, most of which dealt with the artistic choices he had to make in order to make the film. Later that evening, I had  the opportunity to sit with him one on one and talk about his inspiration for creating art, be it theatre or a film. Listen to the recording of the conversation given below or download the podcast on your mobile device and listen at your leisure. I am sure, all film and theatre lovers will find his views quite inspiring.

Mahabharata : The Greatest Story Ever Told – Episode 1

Mahabharata - Vyasa and Ganesha

Mahabharata - Vyasa the story teller and Ganesha the scribe

I think I am not exaggerating when I say that the Mahabharata is the greatest story ever told.  The story of the Kuru dynasty has inspired and enlivened not only the Indians for generations, but the entire humanity. Writers, performers, story tellers, have over the ages,  told us the story several times in different forms. Still it remains ever fresh to us. However, the western world has largely ignored this great epic.  Except for Peter Brook’s theatrical attempt (which was later modified to a television miniseries), I am not aware of any other major attempt. The text of the Mahabharata has been translated to English by many writers, but still they failed to excite the western performers.

Recently, as a part of the EBC Radio Drama Club, I have embarked upon a project to retell the stories of the Mahabharata in my own humble way in English. I hope you, and especially our children, listen to these stories and like them.  If you like them, then join us on the radio (EBC Radio -1170AM in New Jersey, or http://ebcmusic.com, or on your smartphone EBC Radio app) or listen to the recordings here or on iTunes Podcast store (free) on nynjbengali.com channel. This episode (1) was recorded directly from the live broadcast.

 

Why a Play like “Palok”?

Palok

Palok

Over the years, I have tried to capture the conflicts and struggles of our expatriate lives in America through my plays. And one of the greatest struggles we face is to rear our children in this foreign land. In many of my plays,  the relationship (and conflicts) between parents with their children has come up in various forms – sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. In “Ron” it was the conflict of ideals and loyalty between the two generations. In “Satyameva” the longing for parenthood of a lonely father was the key issue. In “Taconic Parkway” the struggle to cope with the loss of a teenage daughter created the drama.  In “Cassandra…” the empty nesters hope and wish to get back to their child drove the play. However, the issue of parenting in its most primitive sense was never explored before until “Palok”.  The challenges of rearing a child during the early formative years is the most trying period for any parent. It tests their patience, their resolve and their sense of responsibility to the maximum, especially in a country where you don’t have the support system of your immediate family.  And during those difficult moments, they sometimes lose control of their senses and do things to their children which borders on “criminal” behavior. Continue reading