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Twelve eyes,that’s what an actor should work with,” says Usha Ganguli,the impatience in her voice apparent,as she encourages the actors rehearsing for her play Chandalika to “see” more.

Written by Parul Bajaj | Published: February 23, 2012 3:33 am

After 36 years of being on the centre stage,thespian

Usha Ganguli believes that the best is yet to come

Twelve eyes,that’s what an actor should work with,” says Usha Ganguli,the impatience in her voice apparent,as she encourages the actors rehearsing for her play Chandalika to “see” more. The director’s latest production,which was staged on Tuesday evening as part of Natyanjali,a festival based on Rabindranath Tagore’s works,received a standing ovation from the audience,who were taken in by the pulsating and moving performance of the actors in the play that projects the anguish of an untouchable girl.

Even after more than 40 shows of the play,Ganguli looks into its last detail. “I am a perfectionist. It comes from the fact that we do one play a year and the rehearsal is sacrosanct. On this January 16,Rangkarmee,our theatre group,completed more than 36 years in Indian theatre,with 35 productions of varied subjects and themes,and yet,I believe the best is yet to come,” says the director,adding that the Kolkata-based group has been able to “break all barriers” and reach out to an audience all over India,which she considers their biggest strength.

On what took her so long to stage Tagore,she says,“I have always aspired to work on him,but could not muster the courage,as I felt that to maintain the heights reached by a genius like Tagore in his works would be tough to accomplish. But now I have dared to take a plunge and I am happy with the result.”

Rangkarmee’s two-year project “Rabindra Rangyatra” aims to adapt and present Tagore’s work by bringing it in sync with the contemporary social scenario and in the process produce something new and different from the original source —Visarjan,Shesh Raksha and Chandalika to name a few.

With a constant endeavour to portray the socio-political scenario of our times,Rangkarmee’s mainstay is the serious selection of subjects for staging a play. “I don’t repeat a subject on stage. We don’t select plays for the box-office,to please anyone or get stars on stage to sell it. We are ruthless,committed,serious and idealists. We pick themes that have a socio-political impact,” says Ganguli,adding how they improvise texts,create dramas from short stories,take plays from world and regional literature and create their own texts too,which are contemporary in theme.

Premchand to Manto,Ibsen to Mahasweta Devi,Chekhov to Mahesh Elkunchawar,it’s a wide range that has absorbed Rangkarmee. “Right now,the rising incidents of rape are making me concerned and angry and that will be the subject of my next play. I know how tough it is to be in a man’s world,having faced many odds. Women’s issues remain the core of our sensibilities at Rangkarmee and I feel this century belongs to the woman,’’ says she.

While language is important,with Ganguli working in both Hindi and Bengali,she has created a theatre language that uses music,movement,simplicity of design and space to make an impact. At 66,she’s getting tired physically,but the energy on stage is for all to see. “There’s so much to do,I have so many subjects that I want to play. I want to create a play on Partition,one on Bangladesh. As a performer,I want to be directed by a top-notch director,” says Ganguli.

Space has always challenged the thespian,and it’s her dream to have a studio theatre in Kolkata,an intimate place with the best equipment and technique. “We’ve performed in garages,on rooftops,schools,streets,town hall and now I wish for a space that’s our own,” says Ganguli,who hopes to come back to the city with her play Rudali.

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