Bengali theatre

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Bengali theatre primarily refers to theatre performed in the Bengali language. Bengali theatre is produced mainly in West Bengal, and in Bangladesh; the term may also refer to some Hindi theatres which are accepted by the Bengali people.

Bengali theatre has its origins in British rule, it began as private entertainment in the early 19th century.[1] In the pre-independence period, Bengali theatres played a pivotal role in manifesting dislike of the British Raj. After the independence of India in 1947, leftist movements in West Bengal used theatre as a tool for social awareness; this added some unique characteristics to the art form that still have strong effects. These groups differentiate themselves ideologically from commercial Bengali theatre.[citation needed]


Play Tohar Gaon Bhi Ek Din staged by Sreejansena group

The many theatres in West Bengal can be broadly divided into Kolkata-based theatres and rural theatres. Outside Bengali-speaking areas, the term "Bengali theatre" primarily refers to Kolkata-based groups, as the rural theatres are less well-known; the two types are similar in form and content, but the Kolkata-based theatres are better funded and staffed. This is mainly due to the influx of expertise from rural areas to Kolkata in search of a larger audience.[citation needed]

There are also Bengali folk theatres. There are many dialects of Bengali spoken in West Bengal and Bangladesh; the larger Bengali theatres use the dialect spoken in Kolkata, Bengali folk theatres have performances in some of the other Bengali dialects.

There is another category of Bengali theatre called Jatra, which is run commercially in rural West Bengal and Bangladesh; this traditional Bengali theatre form is mostly performed by travelling troupes. The most prominent characteristics of Jatra are melodramatic contents and presentation, exaggerated expressions and movements, and an extensive use of traditional musical instruments. Jatra originally explored subjects concerning the tales of Radha-Krishna, but at present, it has been modernized to feature crisis through stories.[2] Many popular Bengali film artists participate in Jatra.

Hindi theatres which are accepted by the Bengali people include the productions of Rangakarmee (established 1976) directed by Usha Ganguly, and productions by Padatik (established 1972) under Shyamanand Jalan, who started with Anamika in 1955.[3][4]


The late 19th- and early 20th-century theatres had their own Bengali music;[1] this form was pioneered by Girish Chandra Ghosh; the era of Bengali theatre before him laid the groundwork, and after his death Bengali theatre music became more experimental.[1] During the era of Girish Chandra, all stage-plays included some form of traditional Bengali music, and dancer-singers who performed before and between the acts. Mythological plays would have Kirtan-anga songs, epics would include indigenous styles such as khyāmtā, and comedies and farcical plays often included tappā songs by Nidhu Babu.[1]

Notable people: West Bengal[edit]

Notable people: Bangladesh[edit]

Notable theatre groups: West Bengal[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Kundu, Pranay K. Development of Stage and Theatre Music in Bengal. Published in Banerjee, Jayasri (ed.), The Music of Bengal. Baroda: Indian Musicological Society, 1987.
  2. ^ Bhattacharjee, S.; Thomas, C. J. (2013). Society, Representation and Textuality: The Critical Interface. SAGE Publications. ISBN 9788132109532. LCCN 2012044258.
  3. ^ Dharwadker, Aparna Bhargava (2005). Theatres of Independence: Drama, Theory, and Urban Performance in India Since 1947. University of Iowa Press. p. 440. ISBN 0-87745-961-4.
  4. ^ Ahuja, Chaman (29 October 1997). "Calcutta,home to Hindi Theatre". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011 – via Centre for the Study of Culture and Society Media Archive. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |newspaper= (help)
  5. ^ a b "Katha-Karnabhar Play". 8th Theatre Olympics. National School of Drama. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  6. ^ "BENGAL REPERTORY | Samarthan". Samarthan. Retrieved 7 August 2018.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bengali stage, 1795-1873, by Brajendra Nath Banerjee. Published by Ranjan Pub. House, 1943.
  • Bengali theatre, by Kironmoy Raha. Published by National Book Trust, India, 1978.
  • The story of the Calcutta theatres, 1753-1980, by Sushil Kumar Mukherjee. Published by K.P. Bagchi, 1982.
  • The Bengali Drama: Its Origin and Development, by P. Guha-Thakurta. Published by Routledge, 2001. ISBN 0-415-24504-4. Excerpts