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Playwright, Director, Actor- The Ingenious Sudipta Bhawmik (Part-1)

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Sudipta Bhawmik, is a well known actor, director and playwright. Having been performing in the Tri-state area since 1989, his plays in Bengali and English have won many awards in India, US and Canada. He has also acted in Mira Nair's The Namesake.

Sudipta is also a cartoonist, illustrator and blogger with a Ph.D, M.Tech and B.Tech degrees from IIT Kharagpur, India. His recent plays Phera, Kaalsuddhi, Durghatana, BSL, Ron, Satyameva, and Taconic Parkway have received wide appreciation both from the critics as well as audiences. His plays have been published in Kolkata's prestigious magazines like Bohurupi and SAS. His play, Satyameva has been made into a Telefilm (renamed as Satyasatta for Tara Bangla TV channel in Kolkata) by the famous actor director Chandan Sen. The play is also being staged in Kolkata  by the well known Theater Workshop and has been renamed Jadiyo Galpo.  Sudipta has also written a screenplay Charu: Unspoken.

Our Editor, Neha Mahajan caught up with this prolific playwright to know more about his works and his recent play Baanaprastha.

NM: You are an IITian, engineer in semiconductors. How come theater and plays became your muse?

SB: I have been doing plays since I was in Kindergarten. When I went to college, there was a very active social culture, they were very active in theatre. There is a technology drama society, even today. So we used to do about two-three plays per year. There were spring festivals and others too. Our professors used to encourage us. We had humanities as a subject and the English teacher used to really encourage us a lot. When I graduated, I was working in Delhi for sometime and then in Kolkata. My interest in theater had deepened and I joined the Panchamved Charyashram, a theater school founded by Saoli Mitra, her group was called Panchamvaidic. I also had the privilege of training under the stalwarts like Sombhu Mitra, Tripti Mitra, Saoli Mitra, Mohit Chattopadhya and others. I also received training from the famous playwright and director Badal Sircar at many of his workshops.

I came to US many years back, and then the first person I did a play with was Sakti Sengupta of the njisacf. The play Sabdo Moho Bandhne was an abstract play based on various Bengali short stories. From that time on, I have been very actively involved in plays.

NM: You have been writing plays from a very long time. What are the themes that they deal with?

SB: I was not really into serious play writing until say about 2001-2002. The thing is that in US we get very little time to do things that we want to do. There are so many commitments. The extra things that you want to do take a lot of time. I was really very involved in directing and acting in the plays that were staged in Kolkata. We used to do them here. Like plays of Badal Sircar and Rabindranath Tagore. We were doing them for so many years – the main reason was nostalgia about our homeland and of the people there.

But we could not connect with them. Things are different here. Famous director Ashok Mukherjee was doing a play here in US and I was acting in it. We were talking and ended up discussing about the plays we do here and how we, who reside here in India cannot connect to them. They don't seem relevant.

He told me that you'll have to do plays that are relevant here. That was a turning point. His words got me thinking. Since then, I started writing plays that reflected out state here.

I wrote my first play Phera in 2003. I received overwhelming response. It was just my first play and people came up to me and told me that they were touched. Some people had tears in their eyes. They could so well relate with the story.

If you look at books of Jhumpa Lahiri, you could see a connection. My plays are quite in similar strain.

Phera was happening in India, backdrop wise. But it is about a boy who came from US to India but his family was not happy and wanted him to go back. They were so given in to luxuries from the money that he used to send. When it was staged for the first time at North American Bengali conference, the hall of 2500 people was full and there was pin drop silence.

Another play like Kaalsuddhi (Redemption) is about a father who was part of Naxalite movement and his grown up son one day finds out and starts questioning him. The father had a guilt in his heart of having been a traitor to his own group.

Another one of my play, Durghatna was a monologue.

NM: Your plays Ron and Satyamev were staged in Kolkata and were very well received. Please tell us about it.

SB : Ron was another play for which I had really researched well. It is about a second generation Indian-American boy who has joined US army and is serving in Iraq. And believe me I met many a family that had sent their son to Iraq. One such man is Dr Major Sudip Bose. This play was written about 2005-2006. This play is about the wars that we fight.

The father could not be proud for the cause that his son Ron had joined the army. His fighting a war, was the fact that he didnot believe in.

This was staged in California and Kolkata. It has been translated in Hindi and performed in Maryland, DC. It was also published in a major literary magazine in Kolkata.

The next year we took Satyamev to Kolkata, the reviewer said that the same group who came from New Jersey and stunned Kolkata with their play Ron., are again here with Satyamev.

Satyamev was a story of Bill, an old man of Indian origin who has been in this country for over 30-35 years and a young man Sanjay, who comes from Kolkata to work for his company. One day Bill fires him and asks him to go back. But Sanjay comes up with bizzare stories to defend his stand of not leaving US.

We have been doing plays everywhere in East Coast. Phera was was done by another group in Boston in English. Kaalsuddhi was also translated into English called Redemption. We have also taken our plays like Ron to Kolkata and they were received wonderfully well there too. I had thought that people will not be able to receive them well there, but I was in for a surprise.

So my plays are majorly about our lives here, which definitely is not a bed of roses. Things get economiclaly, physically different and we have to adapt ourselves accordingly and those who have come her are able to relate well with it. People especially of first generation react to situations like these.

Three of my plays were published in Bohurupi, a magazine in Kolkata. Another one is due this year. People in a global sense are interested in knowing us.

Contd: Part-2

For information about venue and timings of Baanaprastha click here.


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