Achyut Lahkar, doyen of Assam’s mobile theatre movement, and noted playwright and actor, passed away in his hometown Pathsala, about 100km from Guwahati, on Sunday, following a protracted illness. He was 85.
Born in 1931, Lahkar, a theatre enthusiast from his childhood days, founded Nataraj Theatre, the first mobile theatre company of Assam in 1963, which — over the past five decades — gave the mobile theatre movement the shape of a successful entertainment industry, and that too in a state where film-making continues to be a difficult proposition.
“Lahkar had not only pioneered mobile theatre in Assam, but also worked hard to give it the dimension of a booming entertainment industry that provides employment to hundreds of actors, technicians, musicians and other people. On his death Assam has lost a towering theatre personality,” well-known actor and FTII Society member Pranjal Saikia said.
Veteran playwright and cultural personality Ratna Ojha on the other hand described Lahkar’s death as a huge loss to the state’s cultural landscape. “Had Lahkar not dared to set up Nataraj Theatre that would go from place to place like a circus, taking actors, musicians, technicians and all others along with the huge tent and other paraphernalia, the theatre movement in Assam would have remained confined only to the difficult amateur stage. Look at the number of people different theatre companies today employ. There must be about 5,000 people in all,” Ojha said.