Interview: Rudraprasad Sengupta on 28th Nandikar National Theater Festival 2011 and more

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Inauguration of Nandikar's 28th National Theater FestivalCalcutta, Dec 20, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio / Penning Creations) Noted Indian theater actor-director and head of the Kolkata-based internationally renowned Nandikar drama troupe Rudraprasad Sengupta shares some of his thoughts behind the 2011 Nandikar's National Theater Festival - the 28th consecutive year the landmark event in Indian theater is being successfully organized.

Sengupta emphasizes the ability of theater to break the boundaries of language and cultures constricting mankind to specific chunks of civilization, and shares with us how one of the best plays he has had an opportunity to watch was in Poland in the Polish language, which he could follow in spite of knowing only a couple of words of the language.

Speaking during the inauguration of the 28th edition of the Nandikar National Theatre Festival (full report here), the man who took Nandikar from a theater group to a social institution for theater spoke about how the art of theater doesn’t just need revival for its aesthetic beauty but also its power as a social tool.

The National Drama Festival is being held in Kolkata till Christmas day featuring 19 plays over a 10 day period. During these ten days the city will be gifted with a potpourri of theater productions by National School of Drama Repertory Company, Delhi, National School of Drama TIE Company, Delhi, regional troupes and quite a few plays by Nandikar itself. While Assam, Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha will be represented by a single play, there will be two plays from Maharashtra, a few from West Bengal and one from Dhaka, Bangladesh. Israel will also be represented by the sole production ‘Fin-Land’, a play by Mica Dvir.

With a record of hosting theater groups and production houses of repute throughout its journey of almost three decades now, Nandikar’s annual carnival hasn’t failed to bring in the best in business. Since the inaugural edition in 1984, the festival has been graced by the presence of stalwarts like Sombhu Mitra, Vijaya Mehta, Vijay Tendulkar and Girish Karnad.

Sengupta said the Nandikar festival is a celebration of the art they practice, presented to and for those who appreciate it. There aren’t any financial gains attached to it, certainly not on an individual level although there are a number of pioneering social projects the group has taken up.

Theater is a form of storytelling that engages all audiences. A unique example of the art form transcending language and culture barriers is that this year’s festival features plays from universally notable playwrights, including William Shakespeare and Rabinranath Tagore. The significance is in the fact that the bard’s play is performed in a regional Indian language – Assamese. Now that’s one tongue the father of modern day English had absolutely nothing to do with.

Of course, the Shakespearean play in Assamese isn’t simply hoping to get the thematic messages through to an audience that is clueless on what’s being said on stage. The real purpose behind this is to reflect on the diverse culture India possesses in terms of languages and even the origins of its people.

Yet his work, their intricate meanings and themes are all still carried forward past the translation filters. Sengupta himself acknowledges the authenticity of this phenomenon as he reveals he’s even seen plays in languages he has no clue about, yet something about the play has got through to him.

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