The Telegraph
Friday , February 22 , 2013
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Felicitation of doyens opens theatre festival

A theatre festival born in Salt Lake and entertaining residents here for a decade and half celebrated its anniversary last Friday by felicitating a galaxy of theatre and screen personalities at Purbashree auditorium of EZCC.

“Lokkrishti was born in 1989 at AA 81. There were far less people here then. We wanted to build a cultural platform in this fledgling township,” recalled Phalguni Chatterjee, theatre director of Lokkrishti.

The main attraction of the opening evening was the presence of Mrinal Sen. “Jekhane apni boshben, shetai madhyasthan (Wherever you sit will be the centre),” Chatterjee told him, as an infirm Sen chose a chair towards an end of the row to sit onstage. The veteran filmmaker was the chief guest at the inauguration of the 15th Lokkrishti Theatre festival.

Sen, described by Chatterjee, as a Lokkrishti bandhab (friend of Lokkrishti), spoke of his high regard for the theatre world, mentioning Kaushik Sen, also present on stage, by name. “He had acted in my film Amar Bhuban,” he said of the young actor-director helming the theatre group Swapnasandhani.

Sabitri Chatterjee said that being a daughter of the stage, she could never say no to an invitation from the theatre world. “Achievers in our society are feted at a time when they are too old and senile to understand what is happening. I am glad that I am being felicitated while I am still in my senses.” Swatilekha Sengupta of Nandikar recalled her long association with Lokkrishti. “There is so much sincerity in this gesture that I take it more as a mark of affection than felicitation,” she said.

“Praise us if you like our work. If you don’t, come backstage and chide us lovingly” said Debshankar Haldar, who was to star in two of the plays staged at the festival — Jodidong of Nataranga and Biley. “We wriggle in and out of costumes like chameleons. Every role I play leaves an impression on me. May I keep learning from the dreams and ideals of every character,” added the stage stalwart.

Kaushik Sen released Lokkrishti’s annual theatre magazine Manchamukhar. “We do not give enough importance to playwrights. When planning a production, we keep aside funds for lights, for props but often there is no budget for their honorarium. Our new generation writers like Ujjwal are changing that mindset. I thank Lokkrishti for felicitating playwrights from the same stage as directors and actors,” he said, while lamenting the untimely death of playwright Indrashish Lahiri.

Also addressing the audience were director-actor Chandan Sen of Natya Anon, playwrights Ujjwal Chatterjee (of Macbeth, Dhrubatara and Akorik fame), Rajat Ghosh (of Helmet and Apod fame) and Sumantra Chatterjee as well as Ramola Chakraborty, the wife of Subhas Chakraborty who had helped Lokkrishti in its formative years. Meghnad Bhattacharya of Sayak was felicitated later, at the end of his play Dhrubotara with which the festival opened.

Last act

“We are happy with the response from the audience who are coming to the festival despite it clashing with the Book Fair. There is a majority of senior citizens in the audience. We would have been even happier if the younger generation also took an interest in theatre,” said Phalguni Chatterjee, on the concluding evening of the festival on Tuesday.