Tribute to the beginning of an art form - Artistes & connoisseurs celebrate the 48-year-old journey of mobile theatre

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  • Published 3.10.11
Anupama Bhattacharya, the first actress of mobile theatre, in Guwahati on Sunday. Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati, Oct. 2: It has been 48 years of braving numerous ups and downs to tell stories of a cross section of society in every nook and corner of Assam for the state’s very own mobile theatre.

On this day, Nataraj, Assam’s first mobile theatre, was started in Pathsala. Pathar, an organisation working on Assamese culture and literature, today organised a programme to recall the day and appealed to the people to celebrate this day as Bhramyamanor Din (Day of mobile theatre).

On October 2, 1963, the beginning of the five-decade-long journey was marked with the staging of Bhogjora, a play written by Phani Sarma, on a temporary stage in the courtyard of Hari Mandir at Pathsala in Barpeta district.

Haidor Ali (a translated play), Jerengar Sati (by Uttam Barua) and Tikendrajit (by Atul Chandra Hazarika) were the three other plays staged in the first year of Nataraj.

It was Achyut Lahkar, then a 33-year-old youth, who started Nataraj with his unique ideas. Lahkar’s wanted to take drama from one place to another like the yatra parties prevalent in those days. However, the word “Bhramyaman” was used to mean the mobile theatres by social worker Radhagobinda Barua, who was amazed to see the performance of the newly developed Nataraj in its first year.

Although Lahkar was invited, he couldn’t come because of illness. A brief interview with him was screened in front of the audience, where, in a frail voice, the thespian congratulated the members of Pathar for recalling “those” days.

“While other states are following conventional ways to stage plays, in Assam, mobile theatres are going ahead in a different style. Bhramyaman theatres have given Assam a distinct place among the other states of the country. Many others who were with me in the beginning of Nataraj have passed away,” Lahkar said.

Anupama Bhattacharya, the first woman actor in mobile theatre, was also present on the occasion. “We passed the days sleeping on hay and eating on banana leaves. The life was tough but people’s wishes were with us,” Bhattacharya said.

“When I played the role of Joymoti in Jerengar Sati, cold water was poured on me on stage in winter evenings. Joymoti’s torture made people weep and, very often, rushed backstage to see whether I was alive. Responses from people encouraged me to remain an actress,” she said.

“Achyut Lahkar had a regret that nobody cared to remember the day the mobile theatre began although many groups have emerged in the state in the course of time. The aim of declaring this day as Bhramyamanor Din is to remind people of the beginning of mobile theatre,” Mahidhar Kalita, secretary of Pathar, said.