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IN MEMORY OF THE MOHIT CHATTOPADHYAY

KavishalaKavishala June 16, 2020
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IN MEMORY OF THE POET-PLAYWRIGHT, MOHIT CHATTOPADHYAY | Written By - Subroto Ghosh PhD


Kironmoy Raha while talking about the contemporary playwrights in the chapter on the ‘other theatre’ of his book, ‘Bengali Theatre’ writes, “To a greater extent than any other contemporary playwright, Mohit Chattopadhyaya uses poetic and symbolic devices. His characters have an extra-real dimension and he lets them – and the play – develop tensions by a deft use of imagist language and surreal situations.” Very seldom one finds such thrifty use of words to explicitly and exactly describe a person’s body of works. This was way back in 1978 when Mohit was in his first phase of his creative writing for the Bengali theatre world. Mohit Chattopadhyay passed away at the age of 78, after a protracted suffering on 12 April just a day before the first death anniversary of another theatre giant of our time, Badal Sircar. Both were poets to their core and both wrote plays steeped in poetry of their individual genre. The Bengali stage has been impoverished and the likes of them would never be seen once again. 


Mohit was born in Barishal and migrated with his family to Calcutta just a few months ahead of the partition. An avid lover of literature and a compulsive writer of poems, his college days in Scottish Church saw him amidst a group of budding poets like Sunil Gangopadhyay, Phanibusan Acharya, Shibsambhu Pal, Sakti Chattopadhyay, Sandipan Chattopadhyay and Soumitra Chattopadhyay amongst others. One of the founders of the Krittibas group, Mohit published his first book of verses, Aashare Shrabone in 1956. His contemporaries found in his poetries a class that had a very individualist style and were certain that this young companion would be their co-traveller in their journey to discover a poetic idiom in the post-Tagore (and post-Jibanananda?) era. But a chance reading of Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author opened up for Mohit a hither to overlooked world of theatre and he found a very different language to communicate his thoughts which he thought was much stronger and more passionate a vehicle than poetry. According to him, he felt bogged down in his poetic pursuits and was not finding the ecstasy and the delight in writing the verses that he used to enjoy in the initial days of writing poems. He said that he was looking for a space where he could express his feelings more openly, and he found theatre the ideal spot. He wrote his first play, Kanthonalite Surjyo in 1963 and then the flood gates opened that gave Bengali theatre a lease of fresh life in the post-Giris era. 


Gradually he stopped writing poems and concentrated on this new idiom. Often he was asked that why did he stop writing poems? He would say that he has not stopped writing poetries but what has actually happened is that the form has changed from verses to dialogues, scenes and acts. Here, Mohit differed greatly from Badal Sircar. Sircar denied the fact that he was a poet to the core of his existence and believed that he was basically a dramatist while Mohit acknowledged his own poetic talents. More than a hundred plays, full-length as well as one-acts have been penned by this great poet-playwright and have been staged by almost all groups of Calcutta. The readers and the viewers of his plays found that he created wonders in each and every drama he finished. His translations and adaptations of foreign works which ranged from Boudhayan and Shudrak to Arbuzov, Brecht and Kafka amongst others, have been so high in intellectual exercise that these plays have acquired the innate flavour as found in his originals. In the initial years his dramas were mainly centred on the individual human existence and its inner world. They and did not comment on the surrounding system – its polemic and politic. He very consciously changed over to his later phase where he vociferously though never losing his unique refinement, became a great critic of all inequalities, disparities, unfairness and the ills that have denigrated the society around us. In this phase as he concentrated more on the content the structural elements of the plays were less complicated. His play of words in constructing dialogues for his characters was one of his fortes and that attracted Mrinal Sen to collaborate with him in scripting many of his films in Bengali, Hindi and in Oriya. 


Mohit received the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 1991 but that is never a yard-stick to gauge the colossal talent that he was. He remained a poet-playwright all through and never ever tried his hands in the production of any play, neither as a director nor as an actor. This proved his intense commitment to his work as a dramatist.


[I wrote this piece after returning from a beautiful programme arranged by Paschimbanga Natya Akademi at Madhusudan Mancha on 3 May, 2012 to remember this giant poet-playwright who would be regarded as one the foremost dramatist of this century.]


Source: theatrebengal


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