Return of the leading ladies

Read more below

  • Published 2.11.08

Two of the finest actresses of the Bengali stage have begun a second innings. With Manoj Mitra’s Alokanandar Putrakanya, Chitra Sen returned to play Aloka. And Maya Ghosh came back after 15 years to group theatre in Total Theatre’s Sitayan.

“I thought it would be impossible after 14 years. I have changed and most of the cast was new. I didn’t know if I still had it in me. My only hope was the role and Alokananda’s emotional appeal. But those who saw the two shows at the Academy of Fine Arts seemed to like it even better than before,” said Chitra Sen.

Subtle yet intense rendition of emotions has always been Sen’s forte in a career spanning five decades. In the 1970s, she was part of Gananatya Andolan and acted in Gyanesh Mukhopadhyay’s Neel Darpan, Malini, Noukadubi and others.

Later she acted with Rabi Ghosh’s group Cholachol and also acted in Sundaram’s Finger Print and Chaar-deyaler Galpo by Parthapratim Chaudhury. When her husband Shyamal Sen formed Theatre Guild, she acted in Jadu Bangsho, Grihadaho and Bhalomanusher Meye.

After a small gap following motherhood, she returned to stage with remarkable dedication. Just two days after her husband’s death, she was enthralling audiences on stage.

“It was Sundaram’s festival. There were two shows of Alokanandar Putrakanya and in Sovajatra (another play by Mitra), I played Atashi. I managed to do them both, though only I know how difficult it was,” she recalled.

Sen has done only one play for the commercial stage — Naa — at Kashi Biswanath Mancha. Following her first film, Ratrir Tapasya, came memorable appearances in Ritwik Ghatak’s Komal Gandhar, Raja Sen’s Chakrabyuho, Aparna Sen’s Unishe April and telefilms such as Subarnalata. She has also acted in serials like Janmabhoomi.

“One cannot afford to ignore television. But I am optimistic about theatre, so many young people like my son (Kaushik), Bratya (Basu) and Suman (Mukhopadhyay) are exploring new ideas…theatre will be alive and growing,” says Sen.

Idealism and consistency are lacking in the plays of most groups, feels Maya Ghosh, who, sadly, is mostly seen now in office club productions and teleserials. But it is group theatre where she still feels at home.

A part of Bharatiya Gananatya Andolan since 1959, she acted in Shaontal Bidroho directed by Ajitesh Bandyopadhyay. She joined Nandikar and acted in Natyakarer Shondhane Chhoti Choritro, Manjari Aamer Manjari, Phul Phutuk na Phutuk and Jokhon Eka.

“Just being a part of Ajitesh da’s team was a great opportunity. He was a wonderful teacher. Instead of demonstrating actions and expressions, he used to explain the characters and suggest unwritten details about their lives, likes and dislikes…till we could visualise each role clearly and slip into it,” says Ghosh.

Ghosh joined Theatre Workshop when Nandikar broke up and acted in Lolita. “Badami in Manoj Mitra’s Chakbhanga Madhu was a dream role.” Then she lost touch with group theatre and was swept away by offers from office club theatre.

Ghosh never cared for the commercial stage, but has acted in a few teleserials like Purbapurush. She returned to the pivotal role of Sita and other characters in Sitayan, a play produced by Total Theatre. “The characters are drawn well and I feel it was my duty to inspire women to be self-dependent,” smiles Ghosh.