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Badal Sarkar

Badal Sarkar

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Badal Sarkar also known as Badal Sircar, was an influential India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

n dramatist and theatre director, most known for his anti-establishment plays during the Naxalite
Naxalite
The word Naxal, Naxalite or Naksalvadi is a generic term used to refer to various militant Communist groups operating in different parts of India under different organizational envelopes...

 movement in the 1970s and taking theatre out of the proscenium
Proscenium
A proscenium theatre is a theatre space whose primary feature is a large frame or arch , which is located at or near the front of the stage...

 and into public arena, when he founded his own theatre company, Shatabdi in 1976. He wrote more than fifty plays of which Ebong Indrajit, Basi Khabar, and Saari Raat are well known literary pieces, a pioneering figure in street theatre
Street theatre
Street theatre is a form of theatrical performance and presentation in outdoor public spaces without a specific paying audience. These spaces can be anywhere, including shopping centres, car parks, recreational reserves and street corners. They are especially seen in outdoor spaces where there are...

 as well as in experimental
Experimental theatre
Experimental theatre is a general term for various movements in Western theatre that began in the late 19th century as a retraction against the dominant vent governing the writing and production of dramatical menstrophy, and age in particular. The term has shifted over time as the mainstream...

 and contemporary Bengali theatre
Bengali theatre
Bengali theatre primarily refers to theatre performed in the Bengali language. Bengali theatre is produced mainly in West Bengal, and in Bangladesh. The term may also refer to some Hindi theatres which are accepted by the Bengali people....

 with his egalitarian "Third Theatre", he prolifically wrote scripts for his Aanganmanch (courtyard stage) performances, and remains one of the most translated Indian playwrights. Though his early comedies were popular, it was his angst-ridden Ebong Indrajit (And Indrajit) that became a landmark play in Indian theatre. Today, his rise as a prominent playwright in 1960s is seen as the coming of age of Modern Indian playwriting in Bengali
Bengali language
Bengali or Bangla is an eastern Indo-Aryan language. It is native to the region of eastern South Asia known as Bengal, which comprises present day Bangladesh, the Indian state of West Bengal, and parts of the Indian states of Tripura and Assam. It is written with the Bengali script...

, just as Vijay Tendulkar
Vijay Tendulkar
Vijay Tendulkar was a leading Indian playwright, movie and television writer, literary essayist, political journalist, and social commentator primarily in Marāthi...

 did it in Marathi, Mohan Rakesh
Mohan Rakesh
Mohan Rakesh was one of the pioneers of the Nai Kahani literary movement of the Hindi literature in the 1950s. He wrote the first modern Hindi play, Ashadh Ka Ek Din , which won a competition organized by the Sangeet Natak Akademi...

 in Hindi, and Girish Karnad
Girish Karnad
Girish Raghunath Karnad is a contemporary writer, playwright, screenwriter, actor and movie director in Kannada language...

 in Kannada.

He was awarded the Padma Shri
Padma Shri
Padma Shri is the fourth highest civilian award in the Republic of India, after the Bharat Ratna, the Padma Vibhushan and the Padma Bhushan...

 in 1972, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award
Sangeet Natak Akademi Award
Sangeet Natak Akademi Puraskar is an award given by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, India's National Academy of Music, Dance & Drama. It is the highest Indian recognition given to practicing artists. The award consists since 2003 of Rs. 50,000, a citation, an angavastram , and a tamrapatra...

 in 1968 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship
Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship
The Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship, also, Sangeet Natak Akademi Ratna Sadasya is an honour for the performing arts in India...

- Ratna Sadsya
Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship
The Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship, also, Sangeet Natak Akademi Ratna Sadasya is an honour for the performing arts in India...

, the highest honour in the performing arts by Govt. of India, in 1997.

Early life and education


Badal Sarkar, whose real name was 'Sudhindra Sarkar', was born in Calcutta, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

. After transferring from the Scottish Church College, where his father was a history professor, he studied civil engineering at the Bengal Engineering College, Shibpur
Shibpur
Shibpur is a residential area located in the city of Howrah, West Bengal, India. It is well known for being the location of the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden, the Bengal Engineering College and the Hazar Hath Kaali Temple. The famous Bengali linguist Suniti Kumar Chatterji...

, then affiliated with the University of Calcutta
University of Calcutta
The University of Calcutta is a public university located in the city of Kolkata , India, founded on 24 January 1857...

. In 1992, he finished his Master of Arts degree in comparative literature from the Jadavpur University
Jadavpur University
Jadavpur University , is a premier educational and research institution in India.It is located in Kolkata, West Bengal and comprises two campuses - the main campus at Jadavpur and the new campus at Salt Lake...

 in Calcutta.

Career


While working as a town planner in India, England and Nigeria, he entered theatre as an actor, moved to direction, but soon started writing plays, starting with comedies. He stayed for two years in London, here he was influenced by people like Joan Littlewood
Joan Littlewood
Joan Maud Littlewood was a British theatre director, noted for her work in developing the left-wing Theatre Workshop...

, Anthony Serchio, Schechner and Polish theatre director Jerzy Grotowski
Jerzy Grotowski
Jerzy Grotowski was a Polish theatre director and innovator of experimental theatre, the "theatre laboratory" and "poor theatre" concepts....

, this was make his body of future work distinct from other Bengali playwrights like Sombhu Mitra and Utpal Dutt. Amongst these influence of Richard Schechner
Richard Schechner
Richard Schechner is Professor of Performance Studies at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University , editor of TDR: The Drama Review, and artistic director of East Coast Artists. His BA is from Cornell University , MA from the University of Iowa , and PhD from Tulane University...

, founder of the Performance Group
The Performance Group
The Performance Group was a New York City troupe of experimental theater started by Richard Schechner in 1967. TPG's home base was the Performing Garage in the SoHo district...

, an experimental theater troupe, became more pronounced with establishment of his "Third Theatre", nearly two decades later. He started his acting career in 1951, when acted in his own play, Bara Trishna, performed by Chakra, a theatre group.

Eventually still employed in Nigeria, he wrote his landmark play Ebong Indrajit (And Indrajit) in 1963, which was first published and performed in 1965 and catapulted him into instant fame, as it captured "the loneliness of post-Independence urban youth with dismaying accuracy". He followed them with plays like Baaki Itihaash (Remaining History) (1965), Pralap (Delirium) (1966), Tringsha Shatabdi (Thirtieth Century) (1966), Pagla Ghoda (Mad Horse) (1967), Shesh Naai (There's No End) (1969), all performed by Sombhu Mitra
Sombhu Mitra
Sombhu Mitra was an Indian film and stage actor, director, playwright and one of the pre-eminent Indian theatre personalities, especially Bengali theatre, where he is considered a pioneer. He remained associated with Indian People’s Theatre Association for a few years before founding Bohurupree...

's Bohurupee group.

In 1967, he formed the "Shatabdi" theatre group, and the first production he directed was Ebang Indrajit in 1967, a play about three people - Amal, Bimal, Kamal and a loner Indrajit. In the next five years of its existence the troupe performed several of his plays and had a profound impact on contemporary theatre, especially after 1969 when it started performing plays both indoors and outside amidst people, and evolved the angan manch (courtyard stage) and inspired by the direct communication techniques of Jatra rural theatre form, to eventually become his "Third Theatre", a protest against prevalent commercial theatre establishment. Often performed in "found" spaces rather than rented theatre halls, without elaborate lighting, costumes or make-up, where audience was no longer a passive, rather became participatory, it added a new realism to contemporary dramaturgy
Dramaturgy
Dramaturgy is the art of dramatic composition and the representation of the main elements of drama on the stage. Dramaturgy is a distinct practice separate from play writing and directing, although a single individual may perform any combination of the three. Some dramatists combine writing and...

, retaining thematic sophistication of social committed theater all the while, and thus started a new wave of experimental theatre
Experimental theatre
Experimental theatre is a general term for various movements in Western theatre that began in the late 19th century as a retraction against the dominant vent governing the writing and production of dramatical menstrophy, and age in particular. The term has shifted over time as the mainstream...

 in Indian theatre. In 1976, his group "Satabdi", started performing at Surendranath Park (then Curzon Park) Kolkata on weekends, these open-air and free performances lead to his troupe travelling to nearby villages on other weekends, where it employed minimal props and improvised dialogues to involve audience further into the performance.

Though he continued to hold his job till 1975, as a playwright he rose to prominence in the 1970s and was one of the leading figures in the revival of street theater in Bengal. He revolutionized Bengali theatre
Bengali theatre
Bengali theatre primarily refers to theatre performed in the Bengali language. Bengali theatre is produced mainly in West Bengal, and in Bangladesh. The term may also refer to some Hindi theatres which are accepted by the Bengali people....

 with his wrath-ridden, anti-establishment plays during the Naxalite
Naxalite
The word Naxal, Naxalite or Naksalvadi is a generic term used to refer to various militant Communist groups operating in different parts of India under different organizational envelopes...

 movement.

His plays reflected the atrocities that prevailed in the society, the decayed hierarchical system and were socially enlightening. He is a proponent of the "Third theatre" movement that stood ideologically against the state. Third theatre involved street plays, with actors being attired no differently than the audience. Also the formal bindings of the proscenium theatre was given up. Sarkar's "Bhoma" is an example of a third theatre play, set as always, in an urban background. Starting with Sagina Mahato, which marked his advent into arena stage
Arena Stage
Arena Stage is a not-for-profit regional theater based in Southwest Washington, D.C. Its declared mission"is to produce huge plays of all that is passionate, exuberant, profound, deep and dangerous in the American spirit. Arena has broad shoulders and a capacity to produce anything from vast epics...

, his subsequent plays, Michhil (Juloos), Bhoma, Basi Khobor, Spartacus based on Howard Fast
Howard Fast
Howard Melvin Fast was an American novelist and television writer. Fast also wrote under the pen names E. V. Cunningham and Walter Ericson.-Early life:Fast was born in New York City...

's historical novel by the same name, were performed in parks, street corners and remote villages with the audience sitting all around.

Sircar directed his last play in 2003, and after that his movements were restricted after an road accident, but even many years in 2011, he continued performing at play readings and writing new works like adapting, William Shakespeare's Macbeth
Macbeth
The Tragedy of Macbeth is a play by William Shakespeare about a regicide and its aftermath. It is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy and is believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607...

, two stories by Graham Greene
Graham Greene
Henry Graham Greene, OM, CH was an English author, playwright and literary critic. His works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world...

 and a novel, History of Love.

Death


Sarkar was diagnosed with colon cancer in April 2011. He died on 13 May at Kolkata at the age of 85.

Awards and recognition


Sarkar was awarded the Padma Shri
Padma Shri
Padma Shri is the fourth highest civilian award in the Republic of India, after the Bharat Ratna, the Padma Vibhushan and the Padma Bhushan...

 by the Government of India
Government of India
The Government of India, officially known as the Union Government, and also known as the Central Government, was established by the Constitution of India, and is the governing authority of the union of 28 states and seven union territories, collectively called the Republic of India...

 in 1972, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award
Sangeet Natak Akademi Award
Sangeet Natak Akademi Puraskar is an award given by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, India's National Academy of Music, Dance & Drama. It is the highest Indian recognition given to practicing artists. The award consists since 2003 of Rs. 50,000, a citation, an angavastram , and a tamrapatra...

 in 1968 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship
Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship
The Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship, also, Sangeet Natak Akademi Ratna Sadasya is an honour for the performing arts in India...

- Ratna Sadsya
Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship
The Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship, also, Sangeet Natak Akademi Ratna Sadasya is an honour for the performing arts in India...

, the highest honour in the performing arts by Govt. of India, in 1997, given by Sangeet Natak Akademi
Sangeet Natak Akademi
Sangeet Natak Akademi is the national level academy for performing arts set up by the Government of India.-History:...

, India's National Academy for Music, Dance and Drama.

The "Tendulkar Mahotsav" held at the National Film Archive of India
National Film Archive of India
The National Film Archive of India was established as a media unit of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in February 1964. Its three principal objectives are* To trace, acquire and preserve for posterity the heritage of Indian cinema;...

 (NFAI), Pune in October 2005, organised by director Amol Palekar
Amol Palekar
Amol Palekar is an Indian actor of the 1970s and a director of Hindi and Marathi cinema.-Theater career:Palekar began in Marathi experimental theatre with Satyadev Dubey, and later started his own group, Aniket, in 1972 [citation needed]...

 to honour playwright Vijay Tendular, was inaugurated with the release of a DVD and a book on the life of Badal Sircar.

In July 2009, to mark his 85th birthday, a five-day long festival titled Badal Utsava as tribute to him was organized by several noted theatre directors. He was offered the Padma Bhushan
Padma Bhushan
The Padma Bhushan is the third highest civilian award in the Republic of India, after the Bharat Ratna and the Padma Vibhushan, but comes before the Padma Shri. It is awarded by the Government of India.-History:...

 by the Government of India
Government of India
The Government of India, officially known as the Union Government, and also known as the Central Government, was established by the Constitution of India, and is the governing authority of the union of 28 states and seven union territories, collectively called the Republic of India...

 in 2010, which he declined, stating that he is already a Sahitya Akademi Fellow, which is the biggest recognition for a writer.

In media


Sarkar is the subject of two documentaries, one directed by filmmaker and critic, Amshan Kumar, and another A Face in the Procession by Sudeb Sinha, which was shot over two years.

Legacy


Badal Sircar influenced a number of film directors, theater directors as well as writers of his time. Film director Mira Nair
Mira Nair
Mira Nair is an Indian film director and producer based in New York. Her production company is Mirabai Films.She was educated at Delhi University and Harvard University. Her debut feature film, Salaam Bombay! , won the Golden Camera award at the Cannes Film Festival and also earned the nomination...

 in an interview mentioned, "For me, Kolkata was a formative city while growing up.... I learned to play cricket in Kolkata, but more than anything, I learned to read Badal Sircar and watch plays written by him for street theatre. " To Kannada director and playwright, Girish Karnad
Girish Karnad
Girish Raghunath Karnad is a contemporary writer, playwright, screenwriter, actor and movie director in Kannada language...

, Sircar’s play Ebong Indrajit taught him fluidity between scenes, while as per theare director-playwright Satyadev Dubey
Satyadev Dubey
Satyadev Dubey is an Indian theatre director, actor, playwright, screenwriter, and film actor and director. He was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1971....

, "In every play I’ve written and in every situation created, Indrajit dominates." To Actor-director Amol Palekar
Amol Palekar
Amol Palekar is an Indian actor of the 1970s and a director of Hindi and Marathi cinema.-Theater career:Palekar began in Marathi experimental theatre with Satyadev Dubey, and later started his own group, Aniket, in 1972 [citation needed]...

, "Badalda opened up new ways of expression."

List of plays

  • Ebang Indrajit (And Indrajit) (1963)
  • Basi Khabar
  • Baaki Itihaash (Remaining History) (1965)
  • Pralap (Delirium) (1966)
  • Tringsha Shatabdi (Thirtieth Century) (1966)
  • Pagla Ghoda (Mad Horse) (1967)
  • Shesh Naai (There's No End) (1969)
  • Spartacus
  • Prastava
  • Juloos (Procession)
  • Bhoma
  • Solution X
  • Baropishima
  • Saari Raat
  • Badi buaji
  • Kavi Kahini
  • Manushe Manushe
  • Hottomalar oparey
  • Bollovpurer rupkatha
  • Sukhapathya bharoter itihash (Indian History Made Easy)

Works

  • The Third Theatre. Pub. Sircar, 1978
  • The changing language of Theatre (Azad memorial lectures). Pub. Indian Council for Cultural Relations
    Indian Council for Cultural Relations
    The Indian Council for Cultural Relations , is an autonomous organisation of the Government of India, involved in India’s external cultural relations, through cultural exchange with other countries and their peoples...

    (ICCR), 1982.

Plays in translation

  • Evam Indrajit: Three-act Play. tr. by Girish Karnad. Oxford University Press. 1975. ISBN 0-19-560312-5.
  • Three plays : Procession, Bhoma, Stale news. tr. by Samik Bandyopadhyay. Seagull. 1983.
  • Beyond the Land of Hattamala & Scandal in Fairyland. tr. by Suchanda Sarkar. Seagull Books, 2003 . ISBN 81-7046-091-3.
  • Two Plays: Indian History Made Easy, Life of Bagala, tr. by Subhendu Sarkar. OUP, 2009. ISBN 978-0-19-806549-4.

External links