Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton
50 Cherry Hill Road, Princeton, NJ 08540
Written and directed by Sudipta Bhawmik
Cast: Sankar Ghoshal, Keka Sirkar, Abhijit Neogy
Music: Akaash Deep;
Sound: Dwaipayan Mukherjee, Lights: Subhodev Das
(The event is free for active ECTA Members )
Synopsis: Basanta Koomar Roy, an expatriate journalist from India, has been credited by Tagore researchers as a key person (besides W. B Yeats and Ezra Pound) responsible for popularizing Rabindranath Tagore in USA. But Roy fell from his idol’s grace for reasons that torment many a biographer and journalist even today. “The Last Flames” attempts to re-examine the relationship between Roy and Tagore through a fictional encounter and gives us a peek at the human side of the great Poet’s personality. Samar, a young trainee journalist, comes to interview Basanta Koomar Roy at his apartment in New York city, sometime in 1948. Basanta is excited to share his experience as an Indian nationalist freedom fighter in USA. But Samar tells him that he is interested in knowing about his experience with Rabindranath Tagore, since he was the first to write Tagore’s biography in English for the American people. Basanta refuses to talk about his Gurudev until Samar uses his ultimate weapon that opens the flood gates of memories and emotions of this old admirer of Tagore.
The following obituary of Basanta Koomar Roy was published in The New York Times on June 8, 1949: Basanta Koomar Roy, Indian author and free-lance journalist, who had lived in this country for many years, died on Sunday in St. Luke’s Hospital after a brief illness. His home was at 116 West Eightieth Sreet. Born in Orissa Province, India, and a member of the Brahmin caste, Mr. Roy came to the United States around 1910 and studied at the University of Wisconsin, from which he was graduated and where he was later an extension lecturer. He was instrumental in arranging a lecture at the university in 1916 by the great Indian poet, the late Rabindranath Tagore. Mr. Roy was long a writer and speaker for Indian freedom and has been active in the Friends of Freedom for India. He was the author of a biography of Mr. Tagore and of “Dawn over India”, a book telling of the Indian underground movement against British rule.
About a year and half ago, when I was researching on Rabindranath Tagore’s visits to the USA, an incident caught my attention. It said, that apparently there was an assassination attempt on Rabindranath by some Indians during his visit to San Francisco in October of 1916. This piece of information shocked me to say the least and I started to dig into the matter further. I looked into several books on Tagore by well regarded scholars and slowly an image started to take shape. I’ll refrain myself from getting into the details of the various accounts published in several books (you may look for them in the attached bibliography), but just to put matters in context I’ll quote some references: Continue reading →
Since 1989 I have been involved with Bangla Theater in USA. Over the years I have worked with several groups, several associations and have been involved with several theater productions. My theater journey in this country started with the theater group Sansaptak with their production “Sabda Moho Bandhane”. The play was directed by Sakti Sengupta. Being involved with theater since my childhood, I was a bit skeptic about the theater scenario in USA when I first arrived in this country. But my first experience was not only a pleasant surprise but an extremely enjoyable one. All the stereo typical notions of expatriate Bengali theater were shattered with that production. Sakti-da took us through a complete production development process of a new play. The script was developed based on Shirshendu Mukherjee’s short stories, Sunil Ganguly and Sakti Chattopadhyay’s poems. It was not a simple narrative, but rather a complex collage of character’s, their relationships, their dreams and disillusionment. Continue reading →
Very few theatre personalities in India have become legends in their life time. Habib Tanvir was one of them. Born as Habib Ahmed Khan on September 1, 1923 in Raipur, Chattisgarh, Habib Tanvir has reinvented Indian folk theater and brought it out on the world stage in its full glory. I still remember the evening in Calcutta when I watched his brilliant creation “Charandas Chor”. The presentation of the play in a traditional folk form looked so modern, so fresh, that I couldn’t think of anything comparable in contemporary theatre. Habib, through is work, has left a legacy that is difficult to carry on – because it demands a level of dedication that many of our modern theatre workers will fail to match. The sensitivity with which he nurtured the folk forms, experimented with content and presented them with such grace and simplicity – only a true genius can achieve such excellence.
Habib Tanvir passed away on June 8th, 2009, but the lengend he became still lives on and inspires theatre workers all around the globe.
After a long preparation phase, the end is now in sight. In two weeks time, ECTA will be launching their latest production, “Banaprastha” or “The Retirement”. ECTA’s play have always generated interest amongst the theater lover audience of this area and “Banaprastha” is no exception. People are eagerly waiting for the new play with lot of expectation. We hope this play will live up to that.
“Banaprastha” will feature some of the regular performers of ECTA along with few new faces. Shamyo Goswami, a newcomer to New Jersey will be appearing for the first time on NJ stage. Although Shamyo’s primary interest is in film direction (he has directed and produced a Banga Tele-serial featuring some of the top actors of Bengali screen), he is also an excellent actor. Subhodev Das, after a long hiatus, will be performing the role of the protagonist character – Dr. Parijat Sen. Another newcomer is Pradeep Ramdas. Although not a native Bengali speaker, his love for Bengali theater is no less than any Bengali. In India, Pradeep was involved with the street theater movement. Pradeep plays the role of Ashok Diwan, a young business man of Kolkata. Kaninika Dutta’s debut in New Jersey theater was with Pratham Alo, where she acted in the key role of Bhumisuta. Kaninika, after a long break, returns to the stage as Sudeshna. Gargi Mukherjee, the well known actress (you cannot miss her in Mira Nair’s film – The Namesake) also returns to an ECTA production after a long time. She performed in ECTA’s first production “Phera” (The Return) in 2004 as a guest artist. In Banaprastha, she performs in the role of Suranjana – a character that will touch the hearts of many. Kaushik Dutta, who won the hearts of many with his role of Nando in “Ron”, will also feature in an important character role.
I think it was in 2004 when I met Pranay Dutta, an AIDS activist from Calcutta who was on a world tour attending several AIDS conferences in Europe, Asia and America. Pranay Dutta was then (and I understand he still is) the secretary of Sonata Foundation, an NGO in Calcutta who was trying to spread AIDS awareness in West Bengal and India through music, documentaries and performing arts. His theory was that HIV/AIDS awareness through print media was bound to be a failure in India where the majority of the affected people are illiterate. He thought that if this message can be spread out using music and performing arts then it could have the greatest impact. During my discussions with Pranay, he told me numerous incidents of how HIV and AIDS are affecting the poor Indian population. But what struck me most was the fact that how this disease was surreptitiously spreading amongst the educated, urban middle class. He told me several incidents of well-to-do middle class families affected with HIV and their attempts to hush it up, just like the way people used to do in the early half of the twentieth century when people got infected with TB or Leprosy or something similar. The fear of social back lash was more than the disease itself. Anybody infected with HIV is immediately branded as an immoral social outcast – some one who does not have the right to exist amongst the social elite. Most middle class family consider themselves immune to HIV and think that this is only a poor man’s disease. As Pranay says in one of his interviews with Voice of America, people in our society doesn’t care about HIV until someone in their family is infected. It is difficult to make someone aware when he or she doesn’t want to be.
Jadio Galpo : A New Play by Theatre Workshop
Friday February 13, 2009 at 6:30pm
76/1, Bagbazar Street
kolkata, West Bengal Get Directions
Theatre Workshop presents
A play by Sudipta Bhawmik
Directed by Ashok Mukhopadhyay
Sanjoy, a young software professional, has arrived in USA, the “land of opportunity”, for just over six months and works for a software body shopping company “InterSoft” owned and operated by Bill (a Bengali American living in the States for over thirty years.) On the day of the play Bill fires Sanjoy and asks him to go back to India. Sanjoy, however, is not happy with this decision and refuses to oblige. He informs Bill that he is not going to return to India under any circumstances. He states that returning to India is synonymous to signing a death warrant for himself. He cannot subject himself to such a grave risk. And to justify himself, and to win his ultimate motive, he has to make a choice between truth or deceit.
ECTA (Ethnomedia Center for Theater Arts) is looking for actors and actresses for their upcoming production to be staged in late November 2008. Previous acting experience is nice to have but not necessary. Love for theater and performing arts is a must.
If you are interested please attend the following casting call.
Play: Banaprastha – a play in Bengali by Sudipta Bhawmik
Directed by: Indranil Mukherjee
Date and Time: Friday Sept 5 at 7:30pm
Place: 28 McBride Way, Bridgewater, NJ 08807
To RSVP send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Just as the excitement and euphoria of the recently concluded BangaSammelan (Toronto) dies down, Bengalis living in the middle western states are preparing to get into a festival of their own – Bangamela.
The 10th annual Bangamela 2008 will be held in Columbus OH this year from July 18 to 20. The event is hosted by COBCA (Central Ohio Bengali Cultural Association). Just as Bangasammelan (NABC) is franchised and sponsored by CAB (Cultural Association of Bengal), Bangamela is managed and controlled at the high level by MABA or Mid America Bengali Association. Without going into the details about the genesis of Bangamela, it suffices to say that the Bengalis of the mid west felt that they needed to have a festival of their own, a festival that is located closer to where they live and is easily accessible compared to NABC that tends to get most of their attendees from the densely populated (with Bengalis) east and west coast states. Continue reading →
Recently we (ECTA) had the opportunity to stage our new play “Taconic Parkway” at the California Natyamela 2008 held at the Amador Theater in Pleasanton, CA. Last year when I was visiting California to see the staging of my play “Ron” by the local group ENAD, I met Pradosh Sarkar who invited me to participate at the 2008 Natyamela, their fourth year of the festival. Pradosh Sarkar, a playwright and director himself, is a key member of Sanskriti, the group that organizes the Natyamela. In the previous years they limited their invitation only to the local groups, but Pradosh told me that he wants to make an exception in 2008 by inviting us from New Jersey. And I had no option but to accept the offer when he also assured me that they would take care of the expenses. However, Pradosh reminded me that they have a time limitation and each play must be limited to an hour, give or take ten minutes. This was a challenge for me since the plays we had in our repertoire all exceeded this limit. But I thought that this may be a perfect opportunity to work on a new play that was brewing in my mind for some time. After I came back, I started to work on the script and soon developed a one act play named “Taconic Parkway” which perfectly fits the bill for the California Natyamela 2008. It had three characters, and was limited to an hour and ten minutes. Continue reading →