Theatre Stage The first Bangla theatre was founded by lebedeff, a Russian intellectual. He established the 'Bengali Theatre' in 1795 at Domtollah (at present Ezra Street) in calcutta and staged a drama in Bangla translation called Kalpanik Sangbadal on 27 November. Before it was established two other theatres were there established by the English. Only only English plays were performed there.
The Bengalis built a number of theatres in Calcutta in the nineteenth century. These include Hindu Theatre (1831), Oriental Theatre (1853), Jorasanko Natyashala (1854), and Bidyotsahini Mancha (1857). A few theatres were also established in Dhaka towards the end of the nineteenth century. Prominent among them are Purbabanga Rangabhumi (1865), Crown Theatre Stage (between 1890 and 1892), Diamond Jubilee Theatre (1897) etc. At this time a theatre called 'Jagaddhatri Natyamancha' was built in Munshiganj town. This theatre exists even today. During the first two decades of the twentieth century quite a few theatres were established outside Dhaka. These include Khulna Theatre (1905), Coronation Dramatic Club (Tangail, 1911) etc. At this period the zamindars of Santosh, Elenga, Shibpur, Aloa and Karatia in Tangail established a number of theatres.
After the partition of India in 1947 one theatre house called Mahbub Ali Institute was established in Dhaka (1950). No new stage was established in Dhaka for a long time following the independence of Bangladesh in 1971. Of course, a number of auditoriums have been built exclusively for staging plays such as Mahila Samiti Auditorium, and Guide House Auditorium. Recently a 600-seat theatre called 'Dhaka Mahanagar Natyamancha' (Dhaka Metropolitan Theatre) has been established at Gulistan in Dhaka which is mainly used for staging plays. In addition, plays are performed in some general auditoriums at different places in the country including Dhaka. Among them are the such as: British Council Auditorium, Public Library Auditorium, Dhaka University Teacher-Student Centre Auditorium, Kanchikancha Auditorium, WAPDA Auditorium, aswini kumar town hall (Barisal, 1930), and J M Sen Hall (Chittagong).
Brief descriptions of a few major theatres situated in both East and West Bengal are given below:
Banga Natyalay, Bowbazar (1868-1875) was started by Baladeb Dhar and Chunilal Dhar in the house of Govinda Chandra Sarkar at 25, Biswanath Motilal Lane, Bowbazar, Calcutta. The first production staged here was in March 1868 when a mythological play, Ramabhisek, written by manomohan bose was performed. The cast included Umacharan Ghose, Ambika Banerjee, Biharilal Dhar, Baladeb Dhar, Ashutosh Chakraborty and Chunilal Bose. For the next five years no plays were staged here but in 1874 the theatre was re-organised by Nilkamal Mitra of Allahabad with the assistance of some other theatre lovers. A brilliant performance of Sati by Manomohan Bose was staged on 17 January 1874. Another play, Harishchandra, also by the same author, was staged on January 1875. Banga Natyalay was the first theatre to print admission cards in Bangla. Reviews appeared in the Amrita Bazar Patrika (22 January 1874) and the Madhyastha (Magh 1281).
Banga Natyalay, Pathuriaghata (1859-72) was started by Raja Jatindra Mohan Thakur and his brother Shourendra Mohan, ardent theatre enthusiasts, at the palace of Raja Jatindra Mohan at Pathuriaghata, Calcutta. The first play staged here was Malavikagnimitram. This was a sanskrit play by kalidasa and it was performed in July 1859. A year later, a Bangla translation of the play by Pandit ramnarayan tarkaratna was staged here on 7 July 1860. For about five years there was no theatre activity. Then, Jatindra Mohan put together a new group and staged Vidyasundar, an adaptation he had made from a play by bharatchandra Ray, on 6 January 1866. The next play to be staged was Bujhle Kina. A number of plays by Ramnarayan Tarkaratna, Yeman Karma Teman Phal, Chaksudan, Malati-Madhav, Ubhay Sabat, Ruksmini Haran, were also performed in this theatre. Among the plays produced by Banga Natyalay during its fourteen-year life were a Sanskrit and eight Bangla plays. Among those who acted in this theatre were Jatindra Mohan Thakur and Shourendra Mohan Thakur, Madanmohan Burman, Mahendra Mukherjee, Radhaprosad Basak and krishnadhan banerjee. The plays staged here were reviewed in contemporary newspapers such as somprakash (23 July 1860), Sangbad Prabhakar (3 January 1886), hindu patriot (15 January 1872) etc. These newspapers spoke highly of the acting, stage decor, costume, and the special musical arrangements and songs.
Belgachhiya Theatre (1858-1861) was founded by two brothers, Ishwar Chandra Singh and Pratap Chandra Singh, at their Belgachhiya villa in Calcutta. Others associated with this theatre included Jatindra Mohan Thakur, kali prasanna singh, Gourdas Basak and michael madhusudan dutt. The first play staged at the theatre was a Bangla translation of the Sanskrit play Ratnavali, by Ramnarayan Tarkaratna on 31 July 1858. The first day's audience included Sir Fedrick Halliday, the Lt. Governor of Bengal, Rajendranath Mitra, iswar chandra vidyasagar, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, peary chand mitra. Madhusudan wrote an English synopsis of the play for the convenience of the English-speaking members of the audience. The performance inspired Michael to write his first Bangla play, Sharmistha, in blank verse. Sarmistha was staged at Belgachhiya Theatre on 3 September 1859 with Priyanath Dutta, Hemchandra Mukherjee, Gourdas Basak, Keshab Chandra Ganguly, Mahendra Goswami, Ishwar Chandra Singh, Jatindra Mohan Thakur, rajendralal mitra and Krishnadhan Banerjee. Jatindra Mohan Thakur directed the music. kshetramohan goswami and Jadunath Pal conducted the orchestra, the first of its kind in Bangla as well as Indian theatre. Favourable reviews of performances appeared in the Sambad Prabhakar and the Hindu. The theatre was closed down on March 1861.
Bengal Theatre (1873-1901) the first public playhouse, opened on 16 August 1873 at 9, Beadon Street (presently Beadon Street Post Office). The theatre was built by Sharat Chandra Ghose, grandson of Ashutosh Dev (Satubabu) who copied Mrs Lewis's Lyceum Theatre of Chowrangee. Sharat Chandra formed an advisory committee for the theatre with prominent personalities like Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Umesh Chandra Dutta etc. The first play performed here was Michael Madhusudan's Sarmistha on 16 August 1873. During its twenty-eight years of functioning, Bengal Theatre produced more than one hundred new plays by many renowned playwrights including jyotirindranath tagore, rabindranath tagore, Rajkrishna Roy, Biharilal Chatterjee, Upendra Nath Das, amrita lal basu and kshirod prasad vidyavinod. Eminent actors and actresses like Sharat Chandra Ghose himself, Beharilal Chatterjee, Amritalal Basu, Nagendranath Banerjee, Mahendralal Basu, Nripendra Chandra Basu, Elokeshi, Golap, Shyama, Jagattarini, Banobiharini, and Kusumkumari acted here. Binodini, the premier actress of Bangla Theatre, started her acting career at Bengal Theatre. It was Bengal Theatre which first introduced actresses for female roles. Bengal Theatre was closed down in April 1901 after the performance of Pramodravjani by Kshirod Prasad Vidyabinod.
Bengali Theatre (1795-961) the first Bangla proscenium theatre, was opened by Gerasim Lebedeff at 25 Domtollah, (Present Ezra Street) Calcutta. Lebedeff was assisted by his Bangla language teacher, Goloknath Das. Lebedeff translated two English plays, The Disguise and Love is the Best Doctor, into Bangla. The Bangla version of The Disguise was titled Kalpanik Sambadal. It was Goloknath who proposed that the play be staged for the public. He provided actors of both sexes and a group of musicians for Lebedeff who was able to stage The Disguise after a three-month rehearsal. The cost of tickets for the play has been established from an advertisement that appeared in the Calcutta Gazette on November 26 1795: Box and Pit seats cost rupees eight and Gallery ones rupees four. Bengali Theatre opened for the first Bangla stage play on 27 November 1795. The second and last show was held on 21 March 1796. Seats were priced at one gold mohar. Very little is known about Goloknath Das who was closely associated with the first Bangla stage play. Lebedeff's Bangla Theatre was the first proscenium theatre to stage a play in an Asian language.
Bidyotsahini Mancha (1857) was set up by Kaliprasanna Singh at his home in North Calcutta. Kaliprasanna had founded a cultural organisation named Bidyotsahini Sabha, and Bidyotsahini Rangamancha was established to help the association fulfil its mission. The first play staged at this theatre, when it opened on 11 April 1857, was a classic Sanskrit play, Benisanghar, by bhattanarayan, which was translated into Bangla by Ramnarayan Tarakratna. Kaliprasanna also took part, playing the role of a female character called Bhanumati. Sambad Prabhakar (15 April 1857) reviewed the play and praised the performance. The next production was on 24 November 1857 and was Vikramorvashiya by Kalidasa, translated into Bangla by Kaliprasanna himself. Apart from Kaliprasanna Singh, Mahendranath Mukherjee and Umesh Chandra Banerjee (the first president of the indian national congress) also acted in the plays of Bidyotsahini Rangamancha. [Ganesh Mukhopadhyay]
Crown Theatre Stage was established near the Nawab Palace in Old Dhaka some time between 1890 and 1892. Earlier, a theatre belonging to a dramatic society called 'Purbabanga Rangabhumi' was situated at this place; but after the activities of this group came to a stop, Crown Theatre demolished the old theatre and constructed a new one. Because of objections from local residents, the theatre was later shifted to Islampur. When the Diamond Jubilee Theatre was established in 1897 some artistes of Crown Theatre joined it. As a result, the performances at Crown Theatre were hampered. Subsequently, Crown Theatre started showing films and soon ceased to exist as a theatre for dramatic performances.
Diamond Jubilee Theatre was founded by Zamindar Kishorilal Roychowdhury in Dhaka in 1897. Earlier Kishorilal was associated with Crown Theatre; but because of the lack of understanding between the artistes and the management at one stage, he set up a dramatic group and a theatre called 'Diamond Jubilee Theatre' which basically consisted of a number of artistes who originally belonged to Crown Theatre. This theatre was built at Islampur in Old Dhaka where the Lion Cinema is situated today.
Diamond Theatre hired actresses from Calcutta and also local professional dancing girls when needed, and employed them in acting. The most notable plays performed at Diamond included Durgeshnandini, Devichowdhurani, Bijay Basanta, Alibaba, Nabin Tapasvini, Bilvamabgal, Nandadulal, Tarubala etc. Tickets for the theatre were priced at taka two, taka one, eight annas and four annas. Diamond Jubilee Theatre made a remarkable contribution towards introducing the professional theatre in Dhaka. [Zillur Rahman John]
Emerald Theatre (1887-1896) was set up at 68, Beadon Street, Calcutta by Gopal Lal Sheel. He spent considerable sums on magnificent scenes and costumes. He also installed a dynamo to replace the gaslight which had been used till then in theatres. Emerald opened on 8 October 1887 with a mythological drama by Kedarnath Chowdhuri. However, the poor quality of the staging led to diminishing audiences. Seal then invited girish chandra ghose to take over as manager, offering him a bonus of Rs. 20,000/- and Rs. 350/- as honorarium per month. Girish Chandra accepted the offer and produced both old and new plays at Emerald, of which Purnachandra and Bisad became very popular. Dharmadas Sur was engaged for stage decor. Gopal Lal, however, soon grew tired of the theatre and eventually sold it. Emerald continued under different owners up to January 1896. About 40 plays by renowned dramatists like Kedarnath Chowdhuri, Girish Chandra Ghosh, dinabandhu mitra, Atul Krishna Mitra, Kshirod Prasad Vidyavinod and Rabindranath Tagore were staged at the Emerald. The main actors at the Emerald included ardhendu shekhar mustafi, Mahendra Basu, Radhamadhab Kar, Motilal Sur, Banabiharini, Kshetramani, Sukumari, Kusum and Gulfan Hari. [Ganesh Mukhopadhyay]
Great National Theatre was founded by Bhubanmohan Niyogi in 1873 at Beadon Street (where Minerva Theatre is situated now). After some time Krishnadhan Banerjee leased the theatre and ran it under the name of 'Indian National Theatre'; but within a period of only four months Krishnadhan was enmeshed in debts. Once again, Bhubanmohan took over the theatre and continued to run it under the previous name. In December 1875 the plays Hirakchurna by Amritalal Basu and Surendra Binodini by Upendranath Das were enacted here. In Hirakchurna a railway carriage was shown on the stage here for the first time in Bengal. Notable plays subsequently performed at this theatre were Prakrta Bandhu, Sarojini, Vidyasundar, Gajadananda O Yubaraj, Karnatkumar etc.
Gajadananda O Yubaraj was a satire play written on the occasion of the arrival of the Prince of Wales (Edward VII), son of Queen Victoria, who came on a visit to Calcutta on 13 December 1875. The play displeased the government and its performances were banned by the police. The writer of the play Upendranath wrote another farce called The Police of Pig and Sheep ridiculing the police which was staged here on 1 March 1876. As a result, the Dramatic Performances Act was passed by the Government in the same year with a view to controlling theatrical performances. Thus a black chapter was introduced in the field of dramatic performance. Bhubanmohan got utterly destitute because of the Dramatic Performances Act, litigation and so on, and eventually he cut off his connection with the theatre. Others, too, then left the stage. In 1880 a Marwari businessman called Pratapchand Jahuri purchased the theatre and entrusted Girish Ghosh with its management.
Guide House Auditorium is situated on the premises of the office of the Bangladesh Girls' Guide Association at New Bailey Road in Dhaka. Since the eighties this theatre has been a major centre for staging regular drama shows. The Guide House Auditorium aims to increase the number of dramatic performances, promote more and more new theatre groups and create more theatre audiences. This is the place where ticketed theatre shows were introduced.
Some of the notable plays performed at Guide House Auditorium by different dramatic societies include Prajapatir Lilalasya (1972) and Oedipus (1982) by bahubachan; Payer Awaj Paoya Jay (1976), Ghare Baire (1985), Kokilara (1989) and Antigone (1992) by Theatre; Shakuntala (1978) by dhaka theatre; Dewan Gazir Kissa and Bisarjan (1985) by nagarik natya sampraday; Jiban Ghase Agun (1986) by Subachan Natya Sangsad; Padma Nadir Majhi (1991), Mahaprayan (1994) and Ekattarer Dingulo (1995) by lokanatya dal; Asman Tara Shadi (1991) and Bajimat (1994) by Samay Sangskritik Gosthi; No Vacancy (1991) by Kushilab Natya Sampraday; Bichchhu (1991), Lalsalu (1991) and Tughlok (1992) by natyakendra; Hallucination (1992) by Sarak; Merchant of Venice (1993) by dhaka little theatre; Court Martial (1993), Kalantar (1994) and Golapjan (1995) by Theatre Art; Putul Khela (1993) and Bhrtya Rajaktantra (1995) by Kanthashilan; Bibisab (1994) by Dhaka Subachan Natyadal; Phera (1994) by dhaka padatik; Public (1995) by Jahangirnagar Theatre etc.
Dhaka Pantomime (1989) the pioneer of group mime in Bangladesh, staged ticketed mime shows titled Manab O Prakrti, Sabhyatar Kramabikash, Bhasa Andolan, Nadi Pader Jiban, Madakashakti and Svadhinata at Guide House Auditorium between 1991 and 1993. In addition to plays [and mimes ticketed dance shows have been produced here by various cultural organisations. [Zillur Rahman John]
Hindu Theatre (1831-32) set up by Prasanna Kumar Thakur at his bagan badi, garden house, on the outskirts of Calcutta. It opened on 28 December 1831 with scenes from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and Bhavabhuti's Sanskrit play Uttararamacharita translated into English by Professor HH Wilson. The cast included Ganga Charan Sen, Ramchandra Mitra, as well as students of hindu college and sanskrit college. The next production was an English farce, Nothing Superfluous, staged on 29 March 1932. The Hindu Theatre did not stage any Bangla plays during its short life.
Jorasanko Natyashala1 (1854) was organised by Peary Mohan Bose at his own house, on Baranasi Ghose Street, Jorasanko, Calcutta. Its one and only performance was Shakespeare's Julius Caesar on 3 May 1854. Famous contemporary actors such as Mahendra Nath Bose, Krishnadhan Dutta, and Jadunath Chatterjee took part in the play. According to a report of the Sambad Prabhakar (5 May 1854) nearly four hundred people, including Indians and British, formed the audience. The Hindu Patriot of 11 May 1854 suggested that Jorasanko Natyashala should perform plays in Bangla for a Bengali audience.
Jorasanko Natyashala2 (1865-67) of Thakurbari was situated at Chitpur, 6, Dwarkanath Tagore Lane, Calcutta, the ancestral house of Prince dwarkanath tagore (presently Rabindra Bharati University). Jyotirindranath Tagore was inspired by the jatra performances of Gopal Oriya to produce plays on stage. Along with Gunendranath Tagore and Sarada Prasad Ganguly, Jyotirindranath Tagore started Jorasanko Natyashala. During the first half of 1865 Michael Madhusudan Dutt's Krsnakumari and Ekei ki bale Sabhyata were staged, followed by Babu Bilas of Girindranath Thakur. The organisers then thought of producing plays on contemporary social problems like the problems of Hindu women, cruelty of village zamindars etc and advertised accordingly for plays on social themes. They also offered a lucrative prize for the best play. They got a good response, and Ramnarayan Tarakratna was declared the winner for Nabanatak (1866). He was awarded a prize of two hundred rupees on a silver plate. The play was staged on 5 January 1867 at Jorasanko Natyashala. Akshay Mazumder, Sarada Prasad Ganguly, Jyotirindranath Tagore and others took part in the acting. The performance was highly appreciated in newspapers such as the National (9 January 1867) and the Somprakash (23 January 1867). The last stage performance at Jorasanko Natyashala was on 23 February 1867. [Ganesh Mukhopadhyay]
Lion Theatre was founded in Dhaka. In early twentieth century Mirza Abdul Quader purchased Diamond Jubilee Theatre and renamed it as Lion Theatre. In addition to Bangla dramas Urdu plays were also enacted here. These included Jalma O Parasta, Bulbul E Bimar etc. Two farces, namely Chiriyakhana by Jogen Gupta, a playwright from Dhaka, and Lavchhana by Bipin Bihari Cham were also staged here. As films were introduced in Dhaka in course of time, staging of dramas at Lion Theatre was stopped and it was converted into a cinema which started showing films.
Mahbub Ali Institute is a permanent theatrical hall established in 1950 in old Dhaka. It began in 1951 by staging sharat chandra chattopadhyay's Vijaya. The central students union of Dhaka University staged bijan bhattacharya's play Jabanbandi here. In 1952 sikander abu zafar's historical play Sirajuddaula was staged in it. The Doctors' Club of Dhaka Medical College staged Manmayi Girls School and the college's students union performed tarashankar bandyopadhyay's Dipantar in this place. The Agradoot Natyasangha staged bidhayak bhattacharya's Matir Ghar here. Apart from staging plays, the institute's hall was used for holding discussion meetings.
Mahila Samiti Auditorium a centre for stage productions. It played a role in promoting theatre in post-independence Bangladesh. The centre is located in the building of the bangladesh mahila samiti on Bailey Road in Dhaka.
The centre began its journey through staging of plays by group theatres. Many theatre groups have for long been staging plays here. Despite its limited facilities, the plays staged here have helped create an appreciative audience for dramatic art in Dhaka. Its stage is rarely used for other kinds of gathering or political discussions.
The first play to be staged here, Danter Mrtyu by Bernard Shaw, was produced by Drama Circle in 1973. The circle's subsequent productions were Banaful's Nava Sanskaran (1978), Manoj Mitra's Sajano Bagan (1980) and Vijay Tendulkar's Chup Adalat Chalchhe (1984). In 1973 the Nagarik Natya Sampraday staged Bidagdha Ramanikul, Taila Sankat, Cross Purpose and Nisiddha Pallite. Among the other theatre and cultural groups that staged plays here from time to time were Aranyak Natyadal, Dhaka Theatre, Nandanik Natya Sampraday, Dhaka Padatik, Bangladesh bangladesh udichi shilpigosthi, Bibartan Sanskritik Kendra, Lokanatya Dal, Dhaka Little Theatre, Sarak Sahitya O Sanskritik Sangathan and Lion Theatre.
The first pantomime group in Bangladesh- Dhaka Pantomime (1989) - staged (1990) their plays Bakhate Chheler Parinati, Balak O Pakhi, Jele, Prem and Bangladesher Swadhinata. In this auditorium quite a few theatre groups from district towns, some from India, and a few other foreign groups participating in festivals organised by the Bangladesh chapter of the International Theatre Institute have also staged plays here. [Zillur Rahman John]
Metropolitan Theatre (1859) started at Gopal Mallick's Sinduriaputti House, Chitpur, Calcutta but for a short period. It was an ideological effort of Muralidhar Sen to preach the movement of Hindu widow remarriage (bidhava vivaha). The Widow Remarriage Act had been passed in 1856, as a result of the untiring effort of Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar. Some social workers like keshab chandra sen, the great orator and reformer, Rev. Pratap Chandra Majumder, the religious leader, Narendra Nath Sen, the Editor, Indian Mirror and the great humanitarian Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar were among these who promoted the theatre. It has the distinction of staging the second original Bangla play Bidhava Vivaha, written by Umesh Chandra Mitra, on 23 April 1859. Biharilal Chatterjee, Akshay Mazumder, Mahendranath Sen, Pratap Chandra Majumder, Kunjabehari Sen were the, chief actors of the play and they had been trained by Keshab Chandra Sen. A European, Mr Halbine, painted the scenes. The second performance of the same play was held on 7 May 1859, a report of which was published on 14 May 1859 in the Sambad Prabhakar.
Minerva Theatre built on the site of the Great National Theatre, 6, Beadon Street, Calcutta, was started with financial assistance from Nagendra Bhushan Mukherjee. The first play to be staged was a Bangla adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth by Girish Chandra Ghosh on 28 January 1893. More than sixty plays were produced at the Minerva, written by Girish Chandra Ghosh, Jyotirindranath Tagore, dwijendralal roy, Kshirod Prasad, Amritalal Basu, Amarendranath and others. In 1913, the Minerva was reorganised under the leadership of Upendranath Mitra. Guided by him, Minerva Theatre produced more than fifty plays written by different contemporary dramatists. On 18 October 1922, the theatre was destroyed by a fire. The theatre was rebuilt and reopened on 8 August 1925 with the play Atmadarshan by Mahatap Chandra Ghosh. Upendranath continued to manage the theatre up to 1938. After Upendranath's departure, several producers such as Hemendra Nath Mazumder, Dilwar Hussain, Chandi Charan Banerjee, NC Gupta, Rashbehari Sarkar were associated with the Minerva. In 1959, shambhu mitra's group, Bahurupi, staged a play at the Minerva. In June 1959, Utpal Dutta moved to the Minerva with his Little Theatre Group and, till 1968, staged plays here regularly. After the departure of this group, the condition of the theatre deteriorated. Nevertheless, the dilapidated Minerva Theatre still stands on Beadon Street, a memento of nineteenth-century Bangla theatre.
National Theatre (1872-73) the first Bangla public theatre, founded by some members of baghbazar amateur theatre. It staged plays regularly by selling tickets to defray expenses. The open courtyard of Madhusudan Sanyal's house at 33, Chitpur Road, Calcutta, was hired for a monthly rent of Rs. 40/-. A temporary stage was set up here and the name 'National Theatre' was chosen. But controversy arose on this issue, resulting in the departure of Girish Chandra Ghosh, a prominent member of the group. Ardhendu Shekhar Mustafi was then entrusted with the management. The first Bangla public theatre opened on 7 December 1872 with Nildarpan by Dinabandhu Mitra. Tickets for First Class (Chair) was valued at Rs. 2/-, and for Second Class (Bench) at Rs. l/-. Each seat on the courtyard steps cost eight annas. Every Saturday a new play was staged. Afterwards the National staged two shows a week. Most plays performed here were written by Dinabandhu Mitra, but a few were by Shishir Kumar Ghosh, Kiron Chandra Banerjee, Michael Madhusudan Dutt and Ramnarayan Tarkaratna. Occasionally Ardhendu Shekhar Mustafi performed some entertaining pantomimes. The cast included Ardhendu Mustafi, Nagendra Banerjee, Motilal Sur, Mahendra Basu, Amritalal Basu and others. Girish Chandra Ghosh rejoined the National Theatre on 22 February 1873. But unfortunately the National soon divided into two groups: National and Hindu National. The last performance of the undivided National Theatre was held on 8 March 1873. The shows at National Theatre were reviewed by papers such as the Sulabh Samachar (10 December 1872), the Amrita Bazar Patrika (12 December), The Indian Mirror (19 and 27 December) and The Englishman (8 March 1873).
Oriental Theatre (1853-57) was situated at 268, Garanhata, Chitpur, Calcutta, inside the premises of Gaur Mohan Addy's Oriental Seminary School. It was financed by students and alumni of the seminary who collected Rs.800/- for the purpose of staging plays. Two English personalities, Mr Clinger and Mrs. Ellis, trained the actors to produce Shakespeare's Othello, which was performed on 26 September 1853. The play was repeated on 5 October. The Merchant of Venice was staged next, on 2 and 17 March 1854. An Englishwoman, Mrs. Greig, appeared in the role of Portia. Shakespeare's Henry IV and Amateur by Henry Meredith Parker were performed on 15 February 1855. Students and alumni of the seminary acted most of the parts. Production expenses were met by the sale of tickets. Reviews appeared in the Sambad Prabhakar (10 February 1853), The Bengal Harkara (7 April 1853), The Hindu Patriot (21 February 1855), The Morning Chronicle and The Citizen (2 March 1854). The last production at the Oriental was in 1857, with the Sambad Prabhakar of May 1857 reporting the staging of another Shakespearean play at the Oriental. [Ganesh Mukhopadhyay]
Purbabanga Rangabhumi was established in 1865 (between 1870 and 1872 according to one authority) under the leadership of Zamindar Mohinimohan Das in Old Dhaka at the place where jagannath college is situated today. A dramatic society was also formed here. This was the theatre where ticketed dramatic performances were introduced in Dhaka through the staging of the play titled Ramabhisek in 1872. The admission fees for its shows were taka four, taka two and taka one and were considered quite high for the time. The play Ramabhisek, which was based on a mythological tale, became very popular.
A dramatic society by the name of 'Pride of Bengal Theatre' (1861) rented Purbabanga Rangabhumi where it used to perform plays. However, the theatre was used not only for staging plays, but was also the venue for most of the meetings held in Dhaka. This way it virtually served as the town hall. In 1876 under the patronage of Mohinimohan Das the Hindu National Theatre of Calcutta came to Dhaka and performed a number of plays at Purbabanga Rangabhumi which included Nildarpan, Nabin Tapasvini, Sadhabar Ekadaxi, Yeman Karma Teman Phal, Buda Saliker Ghade Roun, Bharat Mata etc. In 1876 a group from Bombay visited Dhaka at the invitation of Nawab Abdul Ghani and staged a Hindi play titled Indrasabha. Three sisters named Gannubai, Annubai and Nabayan acted in Indrasabha. This was the first dramatic performance in Dhaka starring women. The group also performed another play called Yadunagar. In 1884 a drama titled Uttar-ramacharita was enacted here.
Rangmahal Theatre a theatre house established in 1931 at Cornwallis Street (now Bidhan Sarani) in Calcutta. It started its activities under the initiative of Rabindranath Roy (Rabi Roy) and Satu Sen, an engineer and theatre enthusiast. Rabi Roy acted as director while Amor Ghose performed the responsibility of manager. Sasti Ganguly, Nirmal Chandra, S Ahmed, DN Dhar, Harachandra Ghose and Hemchandra Dey converted Rangmahal Theatre into a corporate company. The first play that was staged here was on 8 August 1931 and was Shri Shri Bisvupriya. It was written by Jogesh Chowdhury. shishir kumar bhaduri, who directed the play, also acted in it. It was inaugurated by Aparesh Chandra Mukhopadhyay, a dramatist, actor and director of Art Theatre. Subsequently, plays like Bijayini, Barodaprasanna Dasgupta's Baner Pakhi, and Utpalendu Sen's Sindhu Gaurab were staged at the Rangmahal Theatre on 17 January, 2 April and 25 June, 1932 respectively. Baner Pakhi, with its cast of famous actors of the time like Rabi Roy, Krishna Chandra Dey, Santosh Singh, Dhiraj Bhattacharya, Nirmalendu Lahiri, Shefalika, Charubala, Shashibala and Sarajubala was very popular. On 15 April 1933, Mahanisha, written by Anurupa Devi, dramatised by Jogesh Chowdhury, and directed by Naresh Mitra, was staged. The staging was significant because a revolving stage was used. Credit for the stage goes to Satu Sen.
Rangmahal Theatre witnessed some spectacular successes. For example, Ulka, written by Nihar Ranjan Gupta and directed by Ardhendu Mukhopadhyay, played continuously for 500 nights. Under the direction of Birendrakrishna Bhadra, Sheslagna was staged from 8 November 1956 to April 1957. After the successful direction of Seslagna, Birendrakrishna Bhadra remained with the Rangmahal Theatre as its drama-director from 1956 to 1961. In 1957, the Rangmahal Theatre gained further strength when Mahendra Gupta, an actor, director and dramatist, left Star Theatre and joined the Rangmahal. The other plays staged during this period were Shatabarsa Age, Kabi (12 June 1957), Dui Purus (21 December 1957), Mayamrga (14 April 1958), Ekmutho Akash (15 April 1959) and Ek Peyala Coffee (19 December 1959). Ekmutho Akax was staged continuously for a period of eight months under the direction of Tarun Roy (Dhananjoy Vairagi), - a dramatist and actor who had also written the play. When Tarun Roy left the theatre in 1960 with all his associates, Birendrakrishna took the responsibility of the Rangmahal Theatre single-handedly. Under the direction of Birendrakrishna, Saheb Bibi Golam (23 January 1960), Sushil Mukhopadhyay's Anartha (26 January 1961) and Nihar Ranjan Gupta's Chakra (15 August 1961) were staged. Ananya was staged continuously from 23 December 1973 to 1975. However, Rangmahal Theatre soon started to imitate Bishwarupa Theatre and introduced vulgar and cheap entertainment and cabaret dancing. Many actors and actresses left the Rangmahal during this period, and its management became weak as a result of financial irregularities. Though Rangmahal Theatre survives, it has lost its lustre. [Zillur Rahman John]
Star Theatre1 (1883-87) was set up by the actors Girish Chandra Ghosh, Binodini, Amritalal Basu and others at 68, Beadon Street, Calcutta. Gurmukh Roy, a young non-Bengali, agreed to finance the theatre provided that Binodini agreed to become his mistress. Binodini accepted Gurmukh Roy's condition. Initially the theatre was to be named B-Theatre after Binodini. However, it was ultimately named Star Theatre. The Star opened on 21 July 1883 with Daksayajva, written by Girish Chandra Ghosh. Gurmukh Roy's family was unhappy with his association with the theatre, and he was accordingly obliged to give it up within a few months. He sold the theatre to Amritalal Basu, Amritalal Mitra, Dasu Neogi and Hari Bose for Rs.11,000. From 1883 to 1887 a total of 20 plays were produced at the Star. Apart from Girish Chandra Ghosh, Amritalal Bose, and Binodini, the casts of these plays included Amritalal Mitra, Amrita Mukherjee, Kadambini, Gangamoni, and Kshetramoni. sri ramakrishna saw Binodini acting in Chaitanyalila and was so moved by her acting that he blessed her. In 1887 Gopal Lal Seal purchased the land on which the Star stood and issued its owners with a notice to vacate the theatre. Accordingly, the owners had to vacate the Star. They received a compensation of Rs. 30,000. The last show held at Star Theatre was on 31 July 1887.
Star Theatre2 (1888-1991) was the second phase of Star Theatre1. When the land of Star Theatre at 68 Beadon Street was sold, the dramatic group purchased a land at 76/3, Cornwalish Street, Hatibagan, and built a new Star Theatre House which was also called Hatibagan Star Theatre. Gopal Seal, a wealthy man, came forward with funds and offered Girish Chandra Ghosh a bonus of Rs.20,000/- at a time and Rs. 350/- as honorarium per month.
Girish Chandra had to accept the offer and he donated Rs. 16,000/- to finish the construction job of the Theatre. In addition, he wrote a play for the opening of the new Star Theatre. It opened on 25 May 1888 with the drama Nasiram by 'Sevak', ie Girish Chandra in disguise. Hatibagan Star was famous for over 100 years. During its existence, its ownership changed many times, and the building was renovated and modernised from time to time. Nearly 250 Bangla dramas of more than 80 playwrights including Girish Chandra Ghosh, Rabindranath Tagore, Amritalal Basu, Dwijendralal Roy, Kshirod Prasad Vidyavinod, Mahendra Gupta, Debnarayan Gupta and many others were performed by different producers. More than 12 Hindi dramas were also staged at the Theatre. The casts included innumerable artists of the time. Among them were Girish Chandra Ghosh, Amritalal Basu, Gangamoni, Kadambini, Amor Dutta, Dani Babu, Tara Sundari, Kusum Kumari, Aparesh Chandra, Shishir Kumar, ahindra chowdhury, Niharbala, Sarajubala, Chhabi Biswas, Uttam Kumar, Sabitri Chatterjee, Soumitra Chatterjee, Bhanu Banerjee, Rabi Ghose, Premangshu Bose, Anup Kumar and others. Unfortunately a fire destroyed the glorious Star Theatre on 16 October 1991. Nevertheless, the burnt skeleton and facade of the Star is still standing at the same place revealing its original architectural design. [Ganesh Mukhopadhyay]