Ganakrishti, a leading theater group of Kolkata, has just completed twenty-five years of its journey that began in 1981 by a handful of theater enthusiasts. Over these years the group has grown both in size and stature to one of those very few organizations that can help guide the group theater movement in Kolkata through the troubled socio-economic waters. It was one of those groups who did not feel that producing plays is the only activity they should concentrate on. Ganakrishti wanted to be inclusive, wanted to do theater with everybody. They were not one of those elitist groups that bask on the glory of a limited few “stars”. They started to build ground up, bringing together all the like minded people, train the young through workshops and through stage productions where everybody can be a part of, on-stage or off-stage.
I have been fortunate enough to see three productions of Ganakrishti. “Sateroi July” (July the 17th), a play written and directed by Bratya Basu, was an intensely gripping drama with a huge cast. “Megh Manabi”, a musical developed though the workshop process of Ganakrishti (directed by Jahar Das) is a kind of production that is very difficult to find in any Kolkata stage. The play involved the youngest of the group members who have been groomed through the annual workshop process conducted by the senior performers. “Tashkar Brittanto”, one of the recent productions, is a hilarious satirical drama directed by Amitava Dutta and wonderfully acted by the more experienced members of the group.
Ganakrishti’s latest production, “Jhora Somoyer Kabya” (Verse of Whithering Time), is winning great critical acclaim as well as audience appreciation. The play chronicles the life of Mirza Asad-ul-llah khan Ghalib, who was not only a poet and musician, but also a great philosopher. The play depicts, through the eyes of Ghalib, a changing time of Indian history when the people started to feel the growing power of the British empire gradually spreading its wings of oppression across India. This is a must see play in Kolkata at this moment. So next time you are in Kolkata, do not miss this play.
Ganakrishti’s annual theater festival is another unique event that demonstrates their inclusiveness, their eagerness to do theater with everybody who loves to do theater. It was an honor for us to be a part of Ganakrishti’s annual theater festival in 2006 with our play “Ron“. The festival did not have the pomp and grandeur of some of the other famous festivals and fairs of Kolkata, but it had that magic that creates a bond of friendship and camaraderie that is the key objective of any festival of this nature. The festival invites theater groups from all over India and abroad. One of the key features of this festival is a special segment of children’s plays. Besides plays, the festival also features exhibitions, seminars, as well as felicitation of artists, writers and performers. A festival of this magnitude demands lot of dedication, hard work and funds. Government grants alone cannot bear the expenses. Private and corporate contributions constitute a significant portion of the budget. I hope that the patrons and donors of this wonderful festival continue to sponsor this event in the coming years too and make it a major monsoon festival of Kolkata. I’d also like to request my expatriate Bengali friends who visit Kolkata during the summer moths (July/August) to make it a point to attend this festival and be a part of this wonderful cultural experience.