The Tale of the Lone Traveller: Kuntal Mukhopadhyay and Sanlap Kolkata; An article written by Nilanjann Nandy.

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As I was reading his plays, I mean the paperback publications of his myriad thoughts, put on paper, having been acted out in numerous stages around this country and continent, I was wondering what if this man is not actually writing, in the true sense of the meaning of putting pen to paper, but simply puts his unique thoughts and arranges it in such a pattern that takes the form of “Ghare Phera”/ “Shudrayan”/ “Haye Raam” or Sanlap Kolkata’s latest “Niraasroy”, which mesmerizes with it’s veil like quality underneath which runs the ‘dark rivers of the heart’, which empties into an ocean of conscious understanding...which comes to one only after a thorough travel, a trek through the serpentine by lanes of the human mind...reading every subtle nuance and the whole range of colours which explodes in the deep recesses of our minds when we come face to face with ourselves through the characters in the drama that he portrays and which touches us with a fantastic vibrancy of warm flesh and blood?

What if, the material that he explains as his script is nothing but the ‘whole result of his life-long search’? What if Kuntal Mukhopadhyay, the PhD holder in specifics of theatre, who is also the ‘main-spring’ of the “Sanlap Kolkata watch”, a professor, educationist, drama director, actor and a playwright is actually not a plain creative person, but a wanderer, a traveller, an explorer?

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The seeds of love for theatre began very early in Kuntal when he was quite young, visiting the rehearsals of none other than Utpal Dutt on several occasions along with his maternal-uncle the illustrious yatra actor Shekhar Ganguly, who was Dutt’s disciple at that time when the theatre world was getting ready for the epic legend of a drama called “Tiner Talowar”.

The seeds in Kuntal’s heart slowly flowered and during his college days at Xavier’s it was further watered and finally nourished when in 1979 he and several of his like-minded friends decided to launch their own theatre group – “Sanlap Kolkata”.

This particular move on the part of Kuntal brought about the world of change in his life which predominantly centred around theatre, and Sanlap Kolkata’s productions over the years like “Kaalchakra”, “Haye Raam”, “Shudrayan”, “Ghare Phera” and “Bhabam cholechhe juddhey” went onto prove themselves as milestone productions in the history of modern Bengali theatre definitely.

Most of his creations on stage have been awarded with several prestigious awards by the Natya Akademi and other leading organisations. His play that was staged in Bangladesh in a joint venture won the National Award of Bangladesh which indeed is a great feat by itself.

Kuntal’s study regarding Theatre has been immense as he completed the herculean task of chronicling and doing an in-depth study of “Theatre and Politics”, a study of Group Theatre Movement of Bengal during the period 1948 to 1987 after which he befittingly earned his Ph.D Degree from the Rabindra Bharati University under the aegis of greats like Manoj Mitra and Bishnu Basu. 

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Till date his theatre group “Sanlap Kolkata” has come up with several lovely productions which also includes “Ratnakar” and  “Astoraag” – all written by Kuntal himself, of which their current ongoing production “Niraasroy” (The Shelter-Less) is rapidly gaining popularity among choicest theatre lovers.

With nearly a dozen prominent books already published, Kuntal, an academician to the core loves to delve deep in to the sea of dramatics and at the moment is busy writing his next production.

A true traveler on the path of true theatrics indeed, searching for the real essence of palaver which will open new avenues for the creator and spectator alike, which will bring about amazement similar to finding a new continent on the horizon.

- nilanjan.nandy@gmail.com