We and Our Theater

by Sambit Basu

A Scene from RonI just finished directing a play by Sudipta Bhawmik called Ron. It’s a very relevant story of our time waited to be told. Sudiptada has weaved a magic spell of contemporary tale on an age-old philosophical conflict between the need to fight some wars and the principled position of anti-war. This not only looks at the current time, it does so from the first generation and second generation immigrants’ perspective.

After the play there was a short Q&A session with the playwright where he said that the play is definitely anti-war. But I am positive nobody can call it propagandist. I actually found it to be well-balanced and portrays the viewpoint of a soldier and his family’s perspective in a very touching way.

After being involved with immigrant Bengali community theater for about 7-8 years, what I find most challenging is to capture the imagination of the community. The issues, the problems, the dreams, the hopes, the frustrations, the achievements of the first generation immigrants are different from the folks back home. Yes, this is true that the first generation, especially we the Bengalis, do enjoy living in a bubble of nostalgia when it comes to culture. We prefer Rabindrasangeet over classic Jazz, Bhimsen Joshi over George Gershwin, Kishore Kumar over Norah Jones. We prefer to go and see the current crops of group theater when we visit Kolkata, but seldom make attempts to see the local repertory theater’s productions. However, we do live our lives outside that bubble and constantly get challenged by a different world than what we used to face back home. Our theater should capture that.

In Ron, I thought, Sudiptada could strike the golden balance there where he could evoke a sense of nostalgia within the realm of our everyday existence. Our third production Chhenra Collage also struck that balance, it seems. Even after our tenth production some of the regular audience still refer to the third production. I may have some conjectures as to why this is happening, but cannot really tell for sure. But one thing is for sure, I like to continue doing this kind of theater where we can introspect our contemporary lives with compassion and humor.

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