Mahabharata Episode 14: The Burning of the Khandava Forest.

The Blazing Khandava Forest

The Blazing Khandava Forest

Agni requests Arjuna and Krishna to help him burn down the Khandava forest for the flesh and fat of the animals in the forest would cure him of his loss of appetite. Arjuna and Krishna helps him, and a great fire rages through the forest killing all creatures who lived there. Krishna and Arjuna spared Maya Asura’s life, and to express his gratitude Maya builds a magnificent assembly hall for the Pandavas. Narada visits Indraprastha and advises Yudhistira to perform the Rajasuya Fire ceremony. But Krishna warns Yudishtira that he must kill the vicious king Jarasandha if he would like to succeed in his bid to become the emperor.

The image is a sculpture from Banteay Srei temple, in Cambodia. Arjuna and Krishna are seen on chariots on either side; Indra is atop his elephant Airavata in the sky; Numerous arrows in mid-air counter the downpour of rain; Different birds and animals are seen scattering; Takshaka’s wife and Aswasena are seen rising in the sky. Image and description taken from the jayarama.wordpress.com blog.
Listen to this exciting episode by clicking the player below.

Mahabharata Episode 13: Arjuna Abducts Subhadra

Arjuna Abducts Subhadra

Arjuna Abducts Subhadra

This is the thirteenth episode of the stories of Mahabharata. We have progressed quite a bit, but we have a long way to go. In this episode we hear couple of fascinating stories. In the first story, Arjuna rescues the five Apsaras from their curse. And in the second story, Ajuna falls in love with Krishna’s sister Subhadra, and at Krishna’s suggestion, he forcefully abducts Subhadra and finally marries her. Listen to the episode and let us know how you like it. Visit our Facebook page (facebook.com/MahabharataPodcast) and join the discussion.

Mahabharata Episode 12: The Kingdom of the Pandavas and Arjuna’s Exile

Arjuna and Ulupi

Arjuna and Ulupi

Dhritarashtra offered Pandavas the land of Khandava, a barren and uninhabited piece of land, to set up their Kingdom. To everybody’s surprise, Yudhishtira accepts the offer. In Khandava, the Pandavas setup their capital in Indraprastha, a grand city build by Lord Indra himself.  Rishi Narada tells the Pandavas the story of Sunda and Upasunda and advises them to setup a rule among themselves regarding the companionship of Draupadi with her husbands. But Arjuna had to break the rule to avoid a crisis. And as his punishment Arjuna goes into exile for twelve long years where he encounters several other romantic adventures. Listen to this intriguing episode by clicking on the audio player below. The episode can also be heard on iTunes. And join our Facebook page to stay updated.

Mahabharata Episode 11: Dhritarashtra’s Dilemma

Dhritarashtra and Yudhistira

Dhritarashtra and Yudhistira

When the blind king Dritarashtra learned that the Pandavas have survived the fire in Varanavata and have gained a strong ally, King Drupada of Panchala by marrying his daughter Draupadi, he was in deep trouble. He had already declared Duryodhana to be the crown prince of Hastinapura. Now if the Pandavas come back to Hastinapura and demand the throne, what would he do? Listen to this exciting episode by clicking on the player below.

In Conversation with Binayak Bandopadhyay

Binayak Bandopadhyay at the EBC Radio Studio

Binayak Bandopadhyay at the EBC Radio Studio

Recently, Binayak Bandopadhyay took few days off from his busy schedule as a fellow at the prestigious Iowa University International Writers Program (IWP) and visited us in New Jersey. I jumped on this opportunity and invited him to our EBC Drama Club to talk about his works – poetry and prose. Binayak, who is regarded as one of the most promising writers in Bengali language, is never tired of speaking about his favorite topic – literature. In this session, Binayak reads from his works (translated to English) and talks about his experience at the IWP in Iowa which has been attended earlier by stalwarts like Sunil Ganguly, Sankha Ghosh, Joy Goswami, Kabita Singha and others. Subrata Bhaumik, a local literary enthusiast also joined us at the studio and made the discussion even livelier. Listen to this episode and don’t hesitate to give us your comment.

Mahabharata Episode 10: Draupadi’s Marriage

Draupadi's Marriage

Draupadi's Marriage

After passing Drupad’s test, Arjuna wins Draupadi as his bride. But when the Pandavas arrive at their home, their mother Kunti asks them to do something that changes their lives for ever. Listen to this amazing episode below.

Mahabharata Episode 9: Draupadi’s Swayamvara

Arjuna attempts to hit the target while Krishna, Draupadi and Drupada watch.

Arjuna attempts to hit the target while Krishna, Draupadi and Drupada watch.

Listen to another episode of the stories of Mahabharata. In this episode, we go to the city of Kampilya in Panchala, where the Pandavas attend the Swayavara of Draupadi, King Drupada’s daughter. There, Arjuna passes the most difficult test set for an archer and wins Draupadi as his bride. Listen to the podcast below. And don’t forget to join our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/MahabharataPodcast.

 

Mahabharata Episode 8: The Flaming House of Varanabata

House of Varanabata

The Flaming House of Varanabata

The stories of Mahabharata continues with this eighth episode – The Flaming house of Varanabata. With the advice from Shakuni, Duryodhana comes up with a devious plan to kill the Pandavas. Dhritarashtra sends the Pandavas to Varanabata to attend a festival. But the Pandavas escape the trap set for them and flee into the forest. There Bheema encounters the demons Hidimb and Hidimbaa. Listen to this exciting episode in the podcast below.

(Story told by Sudipta Bhawmik, Audio Engineering and Sound Design by Avi Ziv)

Mahabharata Episode 7: Drona’s Revenge

Drona takes his revenge on Drupada

Drona takes his revenge on Drupada

The stories of Mahabharata are not only about kings and gods and demons. It is also a tale of ethics, morality and politics.  The needs and conflicts that drive each character are the same that drives us today. The great weapons teacher Drona Acharya was a Brahmin. A Brahmin was supposed to have the noblest of qualities and free of petty politics and trivialities of life. Their main purpose in life was to acquire wisdom and spread knowledge to their pupils.  But Drona, had his own axe to grind.  He became the royal weapons teacher of the Kuru princes with a single objective in mind. He wanted to take his revenge on Drupada, the King of Panchala, for the insult he had to tolerate in Drupada’s court. We also learn how the Kaurava brothers start planning for their next step to eliminate their arch rivals, the Pandavas.

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.

২০১৪ বঙ্গ সম্মেলনে সাহিত্য সভা

NABC 2014 Literary Seminar

NABC 2014 Literary Seminar

প্রতি বছরের মতো, এবছরও ধুম ধাম করে উত্তর আমেরিকা বঙ্গ সম্মেলন অনুষ্ঠিত হলো ওর্লান্ডো শহরে। আর প্রতি বছরের মত, বাংলা সংস্কৃতির নানান পসরার সঙ্গে সঙ্গে বাংলা সাহিত্যও সামান্য একটু মুখ দেখাবার সুযোগ পেয়েছিল। গান, বাজনা, নাটক ইত্যাদি অনুষ্ঠান উপলক্ষে যত খরচ হয়েছে, বাংলা সাহিত্যের ক্ষেত্রে খরচ করা হয়েছে তার এক ক্ষুদ্র ভগ্নাংশ মাত্র। তবু একেবারে যে হারিয়ে যায়নি, তার জন্য বেশ কিছু অভিবাসী সাহিত্য প্রেমিকে ধন্যবাদ জানাতে হয়। এবছর, সাহিত্য সভার দায়িত্ব পরেছিল আমার উপর। বাজেট সীমিত, সুতরাং খুব ভাবনা চিন্তা করে এগোতে হয়েছিল। দেশের বিশিষ্ট সাহিত্যিকদের মধ্যে থেকে আমরা পেয়েছিলাম শ্রীজাত এবং বিনায়ক বন্দোপাধ্যায়কে। বিনায়ক এসেছিলেন দুকুল পত্রিকার সৌজন্যে। দেশ পত্রিকার সম্পাদক শ্রী হর্ষ দত্ত আসবেন বলেছিলেন, কিন্তু শেষে জানালেন অনিবার্য কারণ বশতঃ তিনি আসতে পারছেন না। তবে আমি ঠিক করেছিলাম দেশের (অর্থাৎ কলকাতার) সাহিত্যিকদের সঙ্গে, আমাদের কিছু অভিবাসী সাহিত্যিককে আমন্ত্রণ জানাব, যাতে দুদিনের অনুষ্ঠান করতে কোন অসুবিধে না হয়। Continue reading

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