Bengali stage play
Sanskrit dramas continued to be staged in different parts of India until tenth and eleventh centuries A. D. But the depredations of Mahmud Gazni and later foreign aggressions put an end to the performances of Sanskrit plays.
The British rule having established itself, the English plays began being performed from 1785 onwards. In that year Russian citizen Gerasim Lebedev came to India in his pursuit of learning Indian languages and settled down in Calcutta. He translated two English plays and seeking cooperation of actors-actreses of Calcutta he started dramatic activity in 1795. In 1796 at the second performance of one of his plays the admission was kept at one gold coin (Sonamohor) and yet the entire theater was jam-packed with spectators. Bengali people's love for drama received further fillip when from London the famous actor David Soriek sent his drama company to Calcutta and the company staged plays by Sheridan and Shakespeare in Calcutta theaters.
Bengali folk drama forms" YATRA", "YATRA KIRTANIYA", and "PAL-GAN" have always been performed in the open grounds in the villages of Bengal and even today this practice of folk-dramas continues.The contribution of these folk-drama forms is indeed very big and significant in nurturing the love for drama among the Bengali people.
Subsequent to 1795 the professional theaters came to be established in Bengal of which Vidyasundar Drama Theater commanded attention. Madhusudan Dutt and Dinbandhu Mitra were outstanding Bengali playwrights. Their play "NEELDARPAN" staged in 1860 had as its theme the rebellion of the workers. Thereafter the great actor-director-poet Girishchandra Ghosh gave a big impetus to the drama movement and was rightly called the builder of Bengali Ranghbhoomi. The playwright Dwijendralal Roy (1813-1913) made a mark as a very talented writer of historical dramas imbued with love for the motherland and nationalist spirit. The plays were written for the professional theater. His plays "PRATAPSINH", "MEWAD PATAN", "CHANDRAGUPTA". "NOORJAHAN", "SHAHJAHAN" and "DURGADAS" became popular all over India.
The Nobel-Laureate Poet Ravindranath Tagore and a brother of his Jyotiravindra Tagore have written excellent dramas for the Bengali theater. Prof. Shishir Bhaduri was a talented dramatist, a great artist of voice control, and an actor who could perform a gamut of characters with great facility. He has rightly been called the saviour of Bengali theater. His drama "SEETA" broke many records on the Bengali stage. His other plays "ALAMGEER", "SHAHJAHAN" and "MANTRA SHAKTI" became equally popular. In the recent times, the dramatists Ahindra Chowdhari, Shambhu Mitra and Trupti Mitra have made unique contributions to the progress of the Bengali drama. Tarun Roy went abroad to gain experience of European Theater and on his return produced plays from many foreign languages for the Bengali theater. Utpal Dutt has been a much-honoured name in the development of Bengali theatrical arts, his "ANGAAR" play being a major achievement.
Tapas Sen, a great craftsman in light-effects has earned world recognition for himself and for India. In this period "BAHURUPI" and "INDIAN PEOPLE'S THEATER" stand out among countless Bengali theater groups for their most significant plays. Trupti Mitra besides being a highly talented actress set up her own theater group which attracted many new young actors-actresses and taking them together with her, she presented some of the best plays of Kalidas and Bhavbhooti on the Bengali stage. Tarun Roy and his family - his wife, son and daughter - all have made significant contributions to the development of Bengali Theater.
"RAKTAKARUBI", "SETU", "PUTUNKHELU" etc. were the other notable plays of this period which have enriched the Bengali drama heritage. Later Badal Sarkar gave a new direction to the Bengali drama with his path-breaking plays "EVAM INDRAJEET", "BAKI ITIHAS", "SHESHNAI" calling for special mention. Among the new drama groups "LITTLE THEATRE GROUP ", "NATIKAR", "THEATER COMMUNE", "THEATER WORKSHOP" are highly talented and which have kept the Bengali stage vibrant and throbbing. Rudraprasad Sengupta, Ajitesh Bandopadhyaya, K. R. Chakravarti, Bibhash Chakravarti, Usha Ganguli and others are the memorable names of this period. Thus in the development of modern Indian drama the contribution of the Bengali Theater is indeed very great and today also it continues its forward movement towards the future.
The information presented here in respect of the Bengali Theatre has been gathered from available sources. It has been like an attempt to gather pearls from the ocean. It is possible that some happenings, names of some dramas and dramatists and drama artists may have been left out. For our lack of knowledge we seek your forgiveness and at the same time request the experts in this field to draw our attention to any errors or mistakes by writing to us the correct details. We assure you such corrections will be promptly carried out.
Further the names of dramas, playwrights and drama artists who are listed here are not in any order of priority of their qualities or achievements but only with a view to present the information as it has been gathered.
Lastly we once again request you to send in your suggestions, information etc. in respect of Bengali dramas and thereby enrich this humble record of the Bengali Theatre.