by Amitava Sen
A Bengali friend asked rhetorically “Why do you think quite a few, a significant proportion at that, of our daughters are marrying outside the Bengali community and indeed majority of them preferring white Americans?” He thought he had an answer too, “They have concluded, observing their Bengali fathers I think that the Bengali men are opinionated, argumentative, obstinate, dominating and positively not romantic.”
Well that may be a strong sweeping statement, not based on any poll data or census study; but searching for causality, it is possibly safe bet to make an intuitive conjecture on the subject. I could see through the point my friend was trying to make. Our children have the luxury of wider perspective and many options, as opposed to the situation in our left behind homeland. And they do compare and choose. Continue reading
Few years ago, we at ECTA staged a two person play – “Satyameva”. The play was first staged in Kolkata (at the Sujata Sadan) with Indranil Mukherjee and Sankar Ghoshal performing the two roles and I was the director. The play was very well received by the audience and later on Ashoke Mukhopadhyay (who was in the audience in one of the shows), director of the well known group Theater Workshop picked up the play and staged it (renamed as Jodiyo Galpo) on a regular basis with himself as the director and actor along with Krishnagati Mukherjee as his co-star. The play was revived again in New Jersey by ECTA and this time Indranil Mukherjee directed the play with Pinaki Datta and me as his cast. The play was staged in New Jersey, Columbus Ohio, Los Angeles California and San Francisco California. The play was also translated and staged in Marathi in New Jersey by Sharad Sathe and his team. Satinath Mukhopadyay, the famous radio artiste, presented this play on his radio show “Aschhe Se Aaschhe”. Still many people have missed this play on stage and requested us to share the video. I strongly believe that a video recording can never offer the same experience as that of a live performance. But to meet the demand of our audience, we are releasing a complete video recording of one of the New Jersey stagings of “Satyameva…” Also, please be reminded that this recording was done using a single camera without any editing or enhancements and hence the video and audio quality is far from perfect.
By Amitava Sen
This is the other Bengali convention I am writing about. Not many know that it exists, but it has lived for last fifteen years, hail and hearty.
The event is organized by Mid America Bengali Association (MABA), a loosely held central body of many regional Bengali clubs from Louisville, Chicago, Birmingham, Atlanta among other cities. No one owns a franchise and it is made obvious by the apparent absence of claims of ownership by the organizing leaders of the convention. Continue reading
Du Kool Magazine
It is well known that Bengalis have a weakness for literary magazines. Although I am not sure how much of this weakness can be attributed to their thirst for literature versus their thirst to see their name in print, but I am quite sure that if someone accounted for the huge number of Bengali magazines that are published around the world, the number would surely find a spot in the Guinness book of world records. There hardly exists any Bengali who has not been involved with the publication of a magazine in their lifetime. These magazines, also known as little magazines, often serve as the launching pad for many a literary stalwart. They challenge the establishment of big publishing houses and their glossy publications and offer their readers an alternative to the beaten path. They represent the dreams and aspirations of the Bengali youth. Unfortunately, most of these magazines are short lived and they whither away after few issues. In this country too, I have come across many such Bengali magazines which offered the readers a taste of their culture in print or in electronic form. Unfortunately they too did not last long. The primary reasons for their untimely death are lack of funds, lack of focus and lack of business acumen.
Recently another Bengali magazine has surfaced from Ohio, named Du-Kool, which roughly translates to, “two banks” of a river. Continue reading
Soumendu and Arpana Bhattacharya on EBC Radio
Those of you who missed our EBC Drama Club show on June 29th, 2013, don’t feel bad anymore. Here is the podcast of the show made available to you courtesy of EBC Radio and this blog. As I mentioned earlier you can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes (on iPhone, iPod or Android phones, or computers). Just search for “NY NJ Bengali” and you’ll find it.
This week we had an invigorating chat with one of the most talented couples in New Jersey, Soumendu Bhattacharya and Arpana Bhattacharya. We talked about many different issues about their life on stage and how theater enriched them over the years. Soumendu and Arpana performed some clips from the plays they have acted earlier, like Sacrifice, Bhopal and Hayavadana. Listen to the podcast below and next time do not forget to tune in to 1170 AM at 12:00 noon on 1st, 3rd and 5th Saturdays of the month. Please give your feedback in the comments section below.
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Musical Chair at NABC
North America Bengali Conferences (NABC) have started to develop the same look and feel irrespective of where it is held. This year, the MTCC convention center in Toronto Canada looked no different than the Baltimore Convention Center of 2011 or the Atlantic City Convention center of 2010. Although this year the organizers have cut down on the decor part significantly, the stages are not like the dazzling spectacles of the previous years, and you can hardly see cut outs, paintings and signs strewn around the place. But as far as the pandemonium goes, the feel was exactly the same. Continue reading
Often I receive requests from many of my friends to give them an opportunity to watch some of my plays which they had missed. Repeat performances of our plays happen few and far between, hence many a times, a missed show implies a missed opportunity. I have never liked watching plays on video screen, especially when it is captured from stage using a single stationary camera in an auto mode. Hence I have always been reluctant to share our show video archives with my friends. Theatre is something that is enjoyed best in a live theater setting, along with the other viewers. It is a community event. However, recently I had to succumb to the demands of my friends and released the video of our play “Rajar Chithi” on YouTube, and here they are in two parts. The play was staged earlier in 2011 in celebration of Rabindranath Tagore’s 150th Birth Anniversary and I have written earlier about it in a previous post. So if you have missed the show, here is your chance to get a glimpse of the production. Just a note of caution: The play will demand your attention as it is a long one (approx duration 1hr 50mins).
Last Saturday (June 15th, 2013) at our EBC Drama Club show, we had three very distinguished representatives from three different New Jersey Community Theatre organizations as our guests. Patrick Starega from the NJACT (Perry Award) organization representing its member theatres (more than 150), Lluana Jones from Villager’s Theatre (Somerset), and Rich Monteiro from Edison Valley Playhouse (Edison). The discussion started off with a recent article from Huffington Post by Howard Sherman titled “Theater the Theater Community Disdains!” I asked, why is it that such a negative attitude exists amongst the theater community? And the discussion rolled on, from the objectives of community theatre to the role it plays in our community, to the sensitive issues of ethnicity and diversity in community theatre, the variety and originality of content, and the overall quality of production and talent. Listen to this exciting discussion in the podcast below and join the community theatre movement that is thriving in New Jersey all around us.
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Sharad Sathe and Shriram Devre
Sharad Sathe, a playwright and director of Marathi Theatre in New Jersey , was at the EBC Radio studio on June 1, 2013 as my guest to the EBC Drama Club show. He was accompanied by one of his actors, Sreeram Devre. We had an long chat on Marathi Theatre, its history, its evolution and the state of Mararthi Theatre in New Jersey and North America in general. Sharad talked about his inspiration in translating and adapting western plays for the Marathi stage and the challenges he had to face in staging Marathi Theatre in USA. During the conversation, he and Sreeram also read few snippets from some of his plays. But before we started the conversation, we remembered the recently departed film maker Rituparno Ghosh by listening to a clip from his film “The Last Lear” where Amitabh Bachhan recites from the play “King Lear” by William Shakespeare. The audio podcast of the entire conversation is given below.
Podcast: Play in new window
An Open Letter from Amitava Sen
Bengali Babu Holding Hookah
A few weeks ago, I attended and enjoyed your one-act monologue play Banijye Basate Lakhhi, a script about Bengali absence, by and large from the world of business and commerce. It may not have had much dramatic impact on audience because of its format and contents- probably it was not intended to; but enlivened by your natural and easy acting, was interesting indeed and set the Bengali viewers on to soul searching. In that aspect it was quite effective. The subject of your play is topical and in that respect my comments although late in coming, may not have timed out or turned stale. You touched on the maladies that inflict us, discouraging us from launching a venture, aversion to risk taking, reluctance to work hard, and absence of desire to set our spirit free. All these are so very true and have triggered some thoughts in my mind. Continue reading