Where we come from
Born, Nurtured & Battered
1960: A lean, lanky, awkwardly tall young man – untutored, only 27 – parted ways from the near-moribund IPTA, mesmerized a bunch of middle class young persons and founded on June 29, 1960 a theatre group. This young man was Ajitesh Bandopadhyay. The group, Nandikar. Nandikar is one who initiates the auspicious. The group’s slogan was unadorned yet loaded: Produce Good Plays, Play These Well, And Perform As Many Times As Many. Soon Sombhu Mitra became our mentor.
1964: Manjari Amer Manjari (Chekov). One evening Satyajit Ray was a guest. Soon he returned the compliment with his design of Nandikar’s logo, which till today Nandikar carries as its badge of honour.
1965: In nine months Nandikar performed 131 times (Indo-Pak war blacked out theatre for three months). Clearly it became the forerunner among the busiest groups. The dizziest as well!
“Why they had to go we don’t know, they wouldn’t say…”
1966: Nandikar split vertically; Bibhas Chakrabarty departed with 17 young friends. Yet the Show must go on! Regular quality theatre helped Nandikar to notch the top.
1970-1975: Nandikar, heady with success, entered the commercial theatre circuit, started performing four times a week in Rangana Theatre for five long years until in 1975 it was shooed away by the theatre ‘promoters’. Displaced and humiliated, Nandikar felt somewhat directionless. Hibernation started, some churnings, too.
1977: Rudraprasad led a young band of 55 to let Football happen on the stage. Keya Chakraborty died in an accident while shooting for a film. Founder-director Ajitesh Bandyopadhyay left his own group. Rudraprasad, with a few seniors and around 70 freshers, stayed back to mend fences.
We bled, we wept; yet Nandikar began to chart newer courses. We remembered ‘The mother who has lost her child conceives again before the year ends!’
CITIUS (faster), ALTIUS (higher), FORTIUS (stronger)
In coming decades, Nandikar produced about 80 Plays, performed these nearly 8000 times across the nation, featuring in all major National/State Festivals.
Children-friendly Theatre – largely derived from Leela Mazumdar’s dramatic Oeuvre, Ashapurna Devi and Sunil Ganguly, nurtured by Swatilekha Sengupta, Debsankar Haldar and some youngsters – earned a niche for itself.
Beyond borders: Nandikar featured in International festivals in New York, London, Edinburgh, Sweden and China; Nandikar visited 12 States in the US, Canada, former USSR, Norway, Poland, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait to perform and interact. Nandikar also collaborated with Harvard University to mount Jaha Chaai a la Shakespeare
“Every place has a home for me, I’ll find each of these.”
In the eighties changes and shifts started all around – consumption, alienation, competition, globalization became watch words. Culture, too, began to lose its unique local face, mass culture started to erode Theatre’s space. But if people won’t come to theatre, theatre could go to people. Nandikar went to various segments and communities of the society with Theatre. Journey into other pastures began.
From a group to an institution:
- Started research, documentation, publication, exhibition and dissemination
- Returned compliments to world theatre community: facilitated participation of actors, scholars, playwrights from the world over
- Nandikar organized 27 uninterrupted National Theatre Festivals since 1984
- Featuring Sombhu Mitra, P L Deshpande, Vijay Tendulkar, Habib Tanvir, BV Karanth, Dr Lagoo, Tripti Mitra, Vijaya Mehta, Girish Karnad, Kanhailal to Ratan Thiyam
- Troupes from Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Switzerland, Germany, the USA, Sweden and Norway participated
- Alongside, two National Women’s Theatre Festivals, 10 Youth Theatre Festivals and 18 Children’s Theatre Festivals at regional level also happened
- Training: In the field of Training, too, Nandikar emerged as a pioneer in West Bengal. We built bridges with Youth Theatre Workers, teachers of schools, colleges and universities, variously challenged children and young persons, sex workers, adult education centres and corporate executives.
- Theatre-in-Education Programme: Nandikar has been engaged, since 1989, in Theatre with/for the Children through our Theatre-in-Education Programme; till date it has covered more than 200 Schools in West Bengal. We have particularly focused on working with deprived children e.g. slum/pavement dwelling children, visually handicapped children.
1960 – 2010: 50 Years completed, yet miles to go…