Banchharam's day

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  • Published 27.12.09

Some suggested Rabindra Sadan. Others declared that only a Brigade Parade Ground would suffice. But it was clear that the Sisir Mancha auditorium was not big enough to accommodate all those who wanted to wish Manoj Mitra on his 71st birthday and golden jubilee of his play writing/ acting/directing career.

The queue on December 22 for “Manoj Mitrer shonge ek sandhya” had snaked well past Nandan and latecomers were left fuming, unable to get even a toe-hold inside. As the crowd filled out the space on either side of the stage, someone discovered the Sisir Mancha “balcony” — a technician’s ladder that offered an unobstructed view of the stage. Space was at a premium even on stage as luminaries continued to show up for the programme hosted by theatre group Purba Paschim.

The recent rift of “amra” and “ora” (we and they) seemed to have been forgotten, at least temporarily. Arun Mukherjee, Dipankar Dey, Ashok Mukhopadhyay, Bibhas Chakraborty, Raja Sen, Pabitra Sarkar, Debashish Majumdar, Dibyendu Palit and Meghnad Bhattacharya shared the dais. Long-time admirer Chandi Lahiri was there with a cartoon, and Santanu Bandyopadhyay, the ENT specialist, a bag of chocolates. Writer of over 85 published and highly-acclaimed plays, Mitra was stirred out of his bashful silence by this display of love and respect.

“It’s true that we sometimes seem to have moved apart and bitterness creeps in, but these are like wispy clouds that flit away without trace,” he said.The adda that followed was a trip down memory lane from Mitra’s college days to doing field work in the Sunderbans for Chak Bhanga Modhu. One got glimpses of Mitra as an essayist, teacher, film actor and scriptwriter. Novelist Amar Mitra recalled going to school with his borda.

The evening unfolded in video projections of some of Mitra’s plays. His writing debut, Mrityur Chokhe Jol (1959), was read by Chitra Sen, Dwijen Bandyopadhyay and members of Purba Paschim. Excerpts from Mitra’s plays like Chakbhanga Modhu (read by the original cast of Bibhas Chakraborty, Maya Ghosh and Ashok Mukhopadhyay) and Dampati (read by Mayuri Ghosh and Manoj Mitra) followed. Dulal Lahiri sang Manush kemon bhera hoy from Mitra’s Mesh-o-Rakhash, while Ram Mukhopadhyay sang songs from Narak Guljar and Operation Bhomragar.

Prabha Khaitan Foundation and Purba Paschim brought out a booklet on Mitra and rounded off the night with a party at a city hotel, where, in the presence of artist Jogen Chowdhury, and actress Dolon Roy, Mitra cut a “cake” of Nokur-er sandesh.