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A mellow autumn

GAUTAM CHATTEJEE

While his works continue to thrive, playwright Badal Sircar is slowly being neglected.

Photo: Sampath Kumar

The Genius Badal Sircar.

At 83 years, Badal Sircar is still active in spite of being incapable of walking outside his home. On 15th July, he will complete another year. At present, he is completing the third part of his autobiography “Purono Kashundi” in Bengali. Last year, he presented his readers the first two parts of it with his diary “Probasher Hijibiji”. The great playwright Badal da says, “I’m still writing. People have left me alone. And I desire nothing more.”

Acute isolation

At present, he lives in acute isolation. Nobody comes. Nobody goes. This pioneer of Third Theatre (theatre which removes the barrier between actor and spectator) in the ’70s and ’80s doesn’t even receive his royalties. Publishers have neglected him for almost a decade now. His own drama students perform his plays without even informing him. “I have returned from the nursing home a third time. I cannot go out for I am facing severe breathing trouble and I’ve two iron plates in my limbs,” Badal da laments. The writer of famous plays like “Pagala Ghoda”, “Sari Raat”, “Baki Itihas”, “Bhoma”, “Evam Indrajit”, “Yadi Fir Ek Baar”, now risks being neglected and worse still, even forgotten.

But he is not destitute, though facing tremendous crisis, economically and emotionally. His autobiography explores many things in many interesting ways. He says he never steps in the same river twice. As Greek philosopher Heraclitus used to say, “One cannot bathe in the same river twice.”

“Experience never repeats itself, like nature,” explains Badal babu, continuing, “I started theatre from my childhood with my family members. With saris and other house garments, we used to make a stage with curtains and prepare plays with all sincerity. I often even acted in female roles, which my parents never liked!”

Right now Badal da is devoted to his writing. He lives on his own except for a young assistant. His contemporary Shombhu Mitra also had to start living on his own in a hotel. Utpal Dutt, Shombhu Mitra and Badal Sircar were contemporaries.

It was only Badal da who moved beyond proscenium theatre to a new form he called “Third Theatre”, which was widely accepted by theatre practitioners from 1960 to 1990.

His idiom of street theatre continues to be followed even in the National School of Drama. But Badal da is upset that his work has become a product. While battling illnesses he is losing a battle against being forgotten.

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