Badal Sircars death leaves void in contemporary Indian theatre

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Kolkata: In between the frenzy over a political change in West Bengal, the death news of dramatist Badal Sircar, who re-wrote the history of contemporary Indian theatre, went largely overlooked.

The passing away of the 85-year-old Padma Shree awardee on Friday left "alternate theatre", movement which he had heralded with his theatre group “Shatabdi“ since 1976,without a leader.

The 1925-born Sircar had added a new realistic dimension to the contemporary body of work as there was no makeup and costumes in his plays and the audience also participated in the act.

Taking the medium out of the proscenium, he introduced “Aanganmanch“ (courtyard stage) performances, where his works were staged in existing spaces like parks, courtyards, terrace etc,rather than the defined boundaries of theatre halls or the stage.

Breaking the barriers between performers and spectators, he experimented with his production “Spartacus“ in 1972 and staged it with audience sitting all round the room.

Originally named Sudhir Chandra, Sircar a trained civil engineer, entered the world of theatre after working as a town planner in India, England and Nigeria.

His new innings began as an actor in theatre, but he soon moved to direction and then writing plays.

Having penned over fifty plays, Sircar is revered for his anti-establishment works during the Naxalite movement of the early 1970s.

Also known for his Marxian plays, which sought to establish equal rights for all, his signature-piece “Ebong Indrajit“ (“And Indrajit“) in 1963 captured the angst of an urban youth in post-Independence India and created a flutter.

Themed on the monotony and futility of contemporary existence, the play brought Sircar to the mainstream of Indian theatre.

Some of his prominent works include “Basi Khabar“, “Saari Raat“, “Pagla Ghoda“,“Juloos“, “Baaki Itihaas“, “Pralap“,“Shesh Naai“ and “Sagina Mahato“.

He was felicitated with the Padma Shree in 1972, the Sangeet Natak Academy Award in1968 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1968.

Last year, he had declined the Padma Bhusan stating that he was already a Sahitya Akademi fellow.

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