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Theatre fest bridges divide

The Natyamela this year will neither be inaugurated by the chief minister nor will it have the grand stadium opening that she had promised at last year’s launch but the groups invited span both sides of the political divide.

Folk performer Teejan Bai will do the honours on December 2, the first day of the fest organised by the Paschimbanga Natya Akademi.

Performances will be held at Rabindra Sadan, Sisir Mancha, Madhusudan Mancha, Minerva, Girish Mancha and Sarat Sadan till December 9. The fair will then move to Asansol, where it will be on from December 12 to 16. In February, it will be Siliguri’s turn to host the festival.

The 88 groups participating in the Natyamela include Bohurupee, Sundaram, Nandikar, Sayak, Chetana, Bratyajan, PLT, Pancham Baidik, Sonarpur Krishtisangsad and Theatre Workshop.

Nandipat — of which Bimal Chakraborty, who was recently in the news after being assaulted by alleged Trinamul supporters, is a member — is also on the list. As are Natya Anan and Ha-Ja-Ba-Ra-La, known as pro-Left groups in the theatre circle.

On the cards are shows of 40 full-length plays, 24 short plays (Sisir Mancha, three shows daily), seven street plays and seven folk plays (outside Bangla Akademi). There will be exhibitions on D.L. Roy, Noti Binodini and Mohit Chattopadhyay at Gaganendra Pradarshashala.

One of the highlights is Bhopal by Bond Street Theatre and Epic Actor’s Workshop from New York at Rabindra Sadan on December 3. The Rahul Varma play has been directed by Joanna Sherman.

There will be no seminars, play readings or video screenings this year as the Natya Akademi wants to “streamline the festival”, said the secretary of the organisation, Debi Chattopadhyay.

“We want the Natya Akademi to be a unifying body. This time too, selections for the Natyamela were made on the basis of merit. We identified many worthy groups from the districts that have never got a chance to perform at the festival. The Natyamela brings together all theatre lovers and practitioners, it has a role in coalescing and enhancing Bengal’s diverse creative efforts into something befitting the times… theatre after all cannot be practiced in isolation,” said the president of the organising body, Manoj Mitra.

“There is no question of discrimination. The Natya Akademi is a government body. This time, I was part of the selection committee and can say that we tried to accommodate as many groups as possible. Groups that did not participate last year were given preference,” said advisory committee member Arpita Ghosh.