Rashmi Ranjan

While the entire world is busy celebrating the World Theatre Day to raise awareness about the importance of theatre arts, an eight-decade old theatre in the Millennium City of Cuttack is crying for attention.

Once upon a time, it was the centre of attraction for theatre personalities and connoisseurs. Then, it was abuzz with all sorts of theatre-related activities. 

Now, it is lying in ruins, with no roof, doors missing, and the stage, a dilapidated mess. While wild plants and weeds have taken over the compound, trees have grown from the cracks developed on the walls. 

One would be forgiven for mistaking the dilapidated building for a haunted house. 

We are talking about the Janata Rangamancha, in Cuttack, once a Mecca for theatre lovers.

The theatre that once produced scores of noted artistes , is now lying in a dilapidated condition, gasping out the final breaths. The theatre has produced noted artists like Niranjan Satapathy, Natabara Sena, Sarat Mohanty, Binodini Devi, Saraswati Devi, to name a few.

Janata Rangamancha in dilapidated condition in CuttackJanata Rangamancha in dilapidated condition in Cuttack

Narrating Biju Patnaik’s connection with the theatre, Indrajit Ghosh, secretary of Janata Rangamancha, revealed that the theatre’s name was suggested by Biju Babu and he funded it from the treasury of Kalinga Tubes.

“Janata Rangamancha was established in 1952 after the downfall of Rupashree theatre began. The artistes of  Rupashree theatre approached Biju Babu and he provided all necessary help. Biju Babu spent the money from his own Kalinga Tubes treasury to build an auditorium for the theatre artistes,” Ghosh said.

“But, he made a condition that the theatre should be named as Janata Theatre as its sole purpose would be to offer entertainment at a very low price. He also made another condition that the artistes should never invite him to the theatre. But at the end, Biju Babu could not stick to his own condition and ended up enjoying the play- Azad at the theatre,” Ghosh added. 

Attributing the changing mindset of people and evolution of cinema as the reason behind the downfall of theatres, Ghosh said, “Earlier people used to come to watch a powerful story. Now they need all the luxury along with rich content. Though, theatre can provide good plays, but it will miss the comfort that this generation wants.”

Asked if the dying theatres of the city can be revived, an optimistic Ghosh said, “Only Government’s interest can help revive the dying tradition of Odia theatres.”