Usha Ganguly: Indian theatre has failed to reach the places where it needed to

Posted by Kaahon Desk On January 21, 2019

Usha Ganguly is an Indian Theatre director-actor and activist. She reached prominence in Indian theatre with her works in Hindi theatre in Kolkata in the 1970s and 1980s. She founded Rangakarmee in 1976, a collective with which she produced plays like Rudali, Court Martial, and Mahabhoj. She is one of the very few individuals to practice Hindi theatre in Kolkata. She was born in Rajasthan although she draws her descent from Uttar Pradesh and later moved to Kolkata. She started her career as a teacher in a college in 1970 and eventually in the same year she started acting in Sangeet Kala Mandir. Usha Ganguly who was primarily trained in Bharatnatyam did not direct the initial plays of her group Rangakarmee, instead, they invited outside directors like M.K. Anvase, Rudraprasad Sengupta, and Bibhash Chakraborty. She started directing in 1980 after training under Tripti Mitra and Mrinal Sen, and soon her style, seeping with energy, disciplined ensemble work, and a young and large crew brought a sudden resurgence of Hindi theatre in Kolkata. Her most notable works include Mahabhoj, Lok Katha, Rudali, Court Marshal, Himmat Mai, etc. She has written a great number of plays, along with translations and adaptations. She also worked on the script of Raincoat, a Hindi film directed by Rituparno Ghosh, based on O Henry’s The Gift of the Magi. She was awarded the SangeetNatakAkademi Award for direction in 1998, and in 2005 Rangakarmee became the only group of Indian Theatre to perform at the Theatre der Welt Festival in Stuttgart.

Usha Ganguly talks about the space of director in theatre, she talks about space and how she leaves her actors with it amply, to grow, and how it’s a simultaneous process of exchange.

She talks about her long experience of performing in different corners of the country, but primarily of Bengal. There’s a visible tone of lamentation in her speaking as she talks about the failure of Indian Theatre in reaching the places which she thinks it needs to reach. A discussion arises about whether the inclusion of funds and grants in the recent Indian Theatre scene is affecting the please that they derive from their crafts. She was visibly opposed when the subject of advertisement arose, and she firmly stood on the point of un-commercialisation of theatre. She discussed the switch to studio theatre, and how it will not affect the language of her theatre. She seemed absorbed with her new project at hand, and shared with us some of her thoughts with her new space, and how in her mind she is already playing with her audience. She described them as thoughts with no ends and beginnings.

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