Jayati Bose: Patriarchy in theatre unchallenged even by women directors

Posted by Kaahon Desk On January 17, 2018

Jayati Bose is an eminent theatre actor and director of West Bengal. Having discovered theatre from a very young age, she was active on stage from the mid nineteen seventies, as an actor, and as a director from the mid-nineties to the end of the decade. As an actor, she worked with some of the most prominent names of Bengali theatre of the seventies and eighties such as Bibhas Chakraborty and Manoj Mitra. As director, Jayati Bose directed a number of plays such as Protibimbo, BakiItihas, Robot Kupokat, Jhakkas, Bhagabati Gai, Amio Superman and, of course, Care Kori Naa, which is undoubtedly her most successful work. Her abiding contribution has to be the introduction of Grip’s theatre in Bengali. In the four clips, Jayati speaks about a whole range of issues that include the intersection of her life and theatre, her ideas about acting, direction and other aspects of theatre. Though not actively involved with theatre at present, Jayati Bose remains one of the most important theatre personalities of our times whose sharp observations about theatre are as thought-provoking as they are instructive.

Director/actor Jayati Bose speaks about her association with theatre from a tender age. When she joined school at Shantiniketan at the age of 10, more theatre came her way. In 1974 she encountered group theatre in Kolkata through her then husband Surojit Ghosh (a poet and founder of Proma Publication). She remembers how doing theatre, though a serious affair, was also something that gave abundant enjoyment. She says how she used to feel alive when she was in the rehearsal space. She also accessed the big, wide outside world (generally the preserve of men) through theatre. Though she did not ideologically subscribe to communism or such ideals, Jayati learnt the art of saying what needed to be said in society through theatre. Theatre allowed Jayati the scope of exploring and celebrating her rather unique personality and sense of self-hood. She stresses the fact that while she was always learning on the go as it were, she hardly ever learnt anything from books. She talks about her expulsion from Theatre Workshop and how at one point of time her life and theatre seemed to merge so that she took up a directorial role both in her theatre practice and her personal life.

Jayati Bose says that though she has directed plays, she never learnt the craft of a director, something noted by Dharani Ghosh, the eminent critic. As director, Jayati trained her actors to pay attention to sense of timing to create meaningful rhythm in the plays. She says that as director she had an almost intuitive sense of pace rhythm. She also talks about her use of stage space in Baki Itihas. She talks about how in Sajano Bagan, where she had a very small part to play, she created what can be called an actor’s moment. She stresses the importance of creating such moments as an actor because according to her such moments make an actor a creator.

Jayati believes that theatre is a cooperative enterprise that involves the director, the actor and the people working in other departments such as light, sound and costume. She conflates theatre and life to say that just as life has to be looked at in its totality, theatre too needs to be considered as an amalgamation of many elements. She would not consider one to be a director just because one has directed a play or runs a group. A director to her is someone with a definite directorial vision and she points out that without actors who can portray on stage the director’s vision, it is virtually impossible for a director to function.

Looking back at the 70’s, Jayati Bose speaks of the importance given to content (a marker of leftist theatre) and the supreme importance of the director in theatre. Her view of NSD is that this body has tried to come up with something called Indian Theatre by flattening the diverse performing traditions of India into homogeneity and by shifting the focus of performance from content to form. She has found in the theatre of NSD an attempt to dazzle the audience with light, sets etc.  She then speaks of her entering the sphere of direction, mainly as a result of artistic dissatisfaction. She discovered Grip’s Theatre at a workshop in Pune; when she read the script of what would become Care Kori Na, she immediately connected with the narrative. She says that the play’s extraordinary success can be attributed to the fact that it captured the spirit of the times. She mentions that despite the critical and popular success of the play, Kolkata theatre did not attempt Grip’s Theatre after Care Kori Naa.

When Jayati Bose started directing plays, there were some women directors who were also working in Bengali theatre at that time. Though Jayati concedes that a certain female consciousness and perception of life might be present in a woman director’s works, she considers being labeled a woman director rather limiting. She does not believe that it is necessary for a woman director to always take up decidedly women’s issues. She laments the fact that she has hardly ever seen in Bengali theatre practice and performance a clear female perspective at work. Speaking of herself, she says that her group Sutrapat always remained very loosely structured. If there was hierarchy in the group, there was certainly no patriarchy. The conversation then veers towards Jayati’s efforts to maintain herself and her family by earning through her engagement with theatre. She comes to the point that for around half a century she had lived in theatre and avoided life. Then a series of events in her life forced her to gradually move out of theatre and into life. She says she has managed to bring into her life lessons that she has learnt in theatre. She ends by saying that all this requires her to perform in life so much that she does not miss theatre these days.

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