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Attacks spur special segment

- Three plays from region feature in Nandikar’s drama fest

Calcutta, Dec. 14: Nandikar’s 29th National Theatre Festival, an annual event in Calcutta’s cultural calendar, will have a special Northeast segment this year.

The 10-day festival, beginning Sunday, will feature plays by two groups from Assam and one from Manipur along with plays from Calcutta, Chandigarh, Delhi, Odisha, Maharashtra and Bangladesh.

Nandikar will also host exhibitions on Theatre in the Northeast and playwright and poet Mohit Chattopadhyay on the Academy of Arts premises in Calcutta.

“When we started the festival in 1984, one of our objectives was that the cultural community has to make its own contribution, even if in a small way, towards countering the divisive and disintegrating tendencies rocking our subcontinent. This is what spurred us to plan a Northeast chapter this year in the wake of the recent attacks on people from the Northeast in some parts of the country,” said Rudraprasad Sengupta of Nandikar.

Baa — The Creative Breeze of Assam will bring the Assamese version of Habib Tanvir’s Charandas Chor on December 22.

Banian Theatre from Manipur will stage Kumidini, a 70-minute play directed by M.C. Thoiba, on December 23.

Seagull, Assam, will present The Green Serpent on December 24.

“We have kept three evenings for the three groups from the Northeast. This is our way of expressing our concern and empathy towards this issue. We have tried to bring the young and the new to the stage,” Sengupta said.

Directed by Anup Hazarika, the Assamese adaptation of Charandas Chor is a play of 100 minutes.

“We all know what Habib Tanvir and Charandas Chor mean to Indian theatre. I am fortunate enough to have seen Habib Tanvir perform Charandas Chor. But I never thought of putting up the play myself until 1995. Theatre actor Bhagirathi and I translated the play into Assamese from a Kannada script. As the songs were not in the script, it gave us the liberty to choose or create our own and I also tried to give it an Assamese flavour. Hence I picked up nagara naam, a folk musical form of lower Assam, to tell the story of Charandas Chor,” said Hazarika.

Kumidini, a play written by M.C. Arun, explores a woman’s desperation and dreams, her social and political space in the patriarchal Manipuri society.

“In the play, the life and times of Maharani Kumudini unfolds through a debate among three characters — jailor, Binoy and Asha. The debate is a quest for understanding the contemporary Manipuri woman,” said Thoiba.

The Green Serpent, directed by Baharul Islam of Seagull, Assam, centres around a person’s cathartic revelation of a wrong deed committed by him. The play explores how humans – the oppressor and the oppressed – react and relate to each other in changed times.

“The play is an attempt to examine all this in the background of ethnic strife in Assam — when hatred, distrust and violence permeated the atmosphere and crimes were committed in the name of ethnic identities, in the name of them and us,” Islam said.