Charanik, a Kolkata-based group theatre company, will return to the stage after a gap of two and a half years with a number of productions to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary this year. The plays include Shesh Nahi Je, Badnam, and Biswasta Karmi, and an audio drama, Mexican. It has also come up with a commemorative issue of its yearly magazine, Bishoy Natak.
The theatre group has carved out a niche for itself in Bengali theatre with its Left-leaning ideology and socially relevant themes. Speaking to Frontline, Ajanta Ghosh, one of the directors of Charanik, said: “What we are most proud of is that we are a group theatre in the truest sense of the term. We take no help or donations or allocations from the government; or we would lose our identity and independence. We are not dependent on anybody for financial support; we have ticket sales and we contribute ourselves”
Ghosh added: “We have managed to survive these last 50 years without splintering like other theatre groups, and have kept our identity intact.”
While many have left the group to join another or start one of their own, the core members who started Charanik are still with the group. Charanik is also known for its street plays, which it performs not just in Kolkata, but in villages and small towns across West Bengal. The group had also performed in Assam to celebrate the birth centenary of the playwright Jyoti Prasad Agarwala in 2003, and had translated one of his Assamese plays, Lobhita, into Bengali and had toured the State with it.
“We did this at a time when the anti-Bengali sentiment was very strong in Assam. We met Jyoti Prasad’s family and received tremendous love and appreciation from them,” said Ajanta Ghosh.
According to Ajanta Ghosh, adherence to Leftist ideology does not mean that theatre has to be propagandist. “We believe in the social context, but the art content has to be there. We believe that artistic content, delivered through an emotional vehicle, is the best way to reach the people if one wants to bring about social change. And Charanik is all about social change.”