Interview: Bharati Mitra, Writer-Director and Head Of Tagore Music Group of Greater Washington DC

Click Play to listen to Bharati Mitra chat with Arijit Chakraborty
WBRi On-Demand Audio Broadcast Service

Bharati MitraWashington, DC, June 14, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio) Bharati Mitra is a well-known among lovers of Bengali cultural programs around Washington DC. Mitra heads the Tagore Music Group of Greater Washington DC who have been staging innovative musicals, dance dramas and plays across our country. They performed their production "Arupratan" at North American Bengali Conference ("Banga Sammelan") and are about to perform their new production "Chobi - A Musical". WBRi’s Arijit Chakrabarty caught up with the multi-talented lady as she spoke about "Chhobi" and her previous plays and a whole lot more.

After exchanging initial pleasantries, Bharati Mitra shared a brief introduction to the Tagore Musical Group of Greater Washington DC. While the association does have a formal name, it operates in a completely informal manner. There are no hard and fast rules about membership to the group and no fees are charged from members either. In fact, right from the group’s debut stage play ‘Arupratan’ (2009), to the following year when the same play had been staged at the Banga Sammelan, to 2011, when the production"Shammanya Kshati" had been staged, the cast and crew were a mixture of new members as well narrators and musicians from previous productions.

Rather predictably, one was intrigued by the fact that the group managed to keep staging plays without any monetary contributions from its members. Bharati Mitra explained that the local Bengali cultural association (‘Sanskriti’) has continuously helped out the group, both financially as well as with other types of professional support. Not one to forget the favors she and her group had received from Sanskriti, Mitra had, in turn, provided financial aid to the latter, when a function on the occasion of Rabindranath Tagore’s centenary celebration was being planned.

Bharati Mitra points out that while most of Rabindranath’s plays were almost totally based on songs, present-day viewers generally demanded visuals too. Citing the habit of watching Bollywood movies on a regular basis as a probable cause, it was hardly enough for a scriptwriter like herself to depend only upon mesmerizing Tagore songs to ensure a play’s success. Thankfully, Bharati Mitra had been adroit enough to adapt her plays to suit the preferences of today’s (slightly impatient!) viewers.

The conversation next moved on to the Group’s very first production ‘Arupratan’ (a part of Tagore’s play ‘Raja’). Bharati Mitra highlighted on the difficulties of having to scale down the 135-minute original play to fit within the scheduled time-limit of 45 minutes. Once Mitra had her script ready, she had showed it to Sudeb Guhathakurta, the proclaimed Rabindrasangeet expert. Guhathakurta, on his part, had advised her to take the script to Debashish Roy Chowdhury (who had already directed ‘Arupratan’ earlier). Once the latter had approved Bharati Mitra’s script, she had gone ahead and recruited some of the most talented singers, musicians and artists from our locality. The project was a huge one (it took six months to be completed), but ultimately turned out to be an extremely well-made play.

Bharati Mitra next talked about her group’s second venture ‘Shammanya Kshati’. In this regard, the passionate director of plays expressed her disapproval at the general trend of picking child actors for this particular play by other makers. The play in itself had a subtle message to convey (much like ‘Chitrangada’) and, according to Mitra, child actors often were not nuanced enough to portray such sublime messages of ‘Shammanya Kshati’ on stage. Accordingly, Bharati Mitra had opted for elder actors when she made this play in 2011.

Next up on the agenda during this conversation was ‘Chobi’ – the dramatic adaptation of Saratchandra Chattopadhyay’s story (more details at the facebook page), which is scheduled to be staged at the Black Rock Center for the Arts in Germantown by Bharati Mitra’s group on June 24. While ‘Chhobi’ is one of the lesser-read stories by Chattopadhyay, Mitra is a die-hard romantic at heart and ‘Chobi’ was always one of her top literary favourites. The play was set in Burma and quite a number of beautiful Rabindrasangeet songs have been incorporated into it to make the play all the more beautiful and realistic.

Elaborating on the storyline of ‘Chhobi’, Bharati Mitra explained that it is basically a love story between Ba Thwinn, a young boy and Ma Shwaye, a pretty and extremely rich girl. Ma Shwaye’s father, at the time of his death, had expressed his wish to marry off his daughter to Ba Thwinn. On the other hand, the young man’s father had also instructed his son to repay his debts to Ma Shwaye’s dad. However, the young man had precious little money of his own and had been forced to take up a job as a painter in the court of the Burmese king. Ma Shwaye had, in the meanwhile, developed a close friendship with another young man, who had won the annual horse race function in the locality. The rest of ‘Chobi’ relates how the romantic future of Ba Thwinn and Ma Shwaye pan out.

The interview now drew to a close, with Arijit Chakrabarty thanking Bharati Mitra for being gracious enough in taking out time to have a chat with WBRi. The lady also expressed her gratitude to everyone related to Washington Bangla Radio, as well as the audience.

- Article by Penning Creations, Kolkata