The fourth session on the first day of the Kolkata Literature Festival as part of the International Kolkata Book Fair had Amol Palekar, Professor Ananda Lal and Anjum Katyal as panelists as they discussed Badal Sircar and his contribution to theatre in a session entitled ‘The Third Option: Badal Sircar and His Theatre’.
The session began with Amol Palekar reading out an extract from his writings about Badal Sircar during the time he was part of the committee on the commissioning of Navi Mumbai by day but eventually moved to the Nattakwalahs or theatre persons. He then went on to speak about how he was heavily inspired by Sircar and went on to start exploring non-traditional theatre forms in 1972 and 1973. Although he began by performing Michhil at the Annual State Theatre Publication during the Emergency, he moved on to perform Sircar’s plays in alternate spaces such as the Jaslok Hospital Foyer, the LIC Canteen and even garages which eventually led to a strengthening of bonds between Badal Sircar and himself.
All three panelists – Ms Katyal, Prof. Lal and Mr. Palekar – spoke about how Badal Sircar was arguably the most influential theatre personality of their generation having inspired students, academics, the young and the old alike. They went on to add that Ebong Indrojeet was perhaps, the most influential of Sircar’s plays in helping a generation identify their individuality.
Palekar reminisced about his memories of Sircar as a visitor in Mumbai when they had gone to Film City to watch filming of movies. Parveen Babi, then in her heydays, had jumped off her feet upon meeting Badal Sircar and spoke fondly about how Ebong Indrojeet had heavily inspired her, and that how she had played Manasi in a production.
Anjum Katyal mentioned that theatre in India, especially alternate theatre, holds very little ground in the absence of a mention of Badal Sircar. Actors like Girish Karnad have spoken fondly about the influence Sircar’s works have had on him and even today there are countless productions of his works happening in the country, albeit undocumented.
Sircar’s greatest role however, continues to remain that of a teacher. He travelled through the length and breadth of the Indian subcontinent teaching amateurs and professionals and influenced them heavily on the adoption of Third Theatre.
Sadly enough, Sircar perhaps, was never given his due. With around 40 out of his 60 works never having been translated into other regional languages, lovers and practitioners of theatre moved away far too quickly from Sircar owing to his love for Third Theatre and subsequent rejection of the proscenium theatre model. In fact, when Sircar had once met with an accident, no one apart from Palekar had come forward to help him and Indian theatre’s greatest luminary had been abandoned by his own city. Soon after he recuperated, Palekar organized a retrospective of Sircar’s plays in Pune – which was attended by over 900 people, all of whom stayed back to listen to Sircar speak in an interview that lasted over two hours.
Palekar fondly remembers Sircar say to him at the end of the session that he felt as if he had now received twenty more years to live.
Post by Rrivu Banerjee. Join the conversation online. #boimela