Basu’s political journey to get a jatra rendition

By Sreecheta Das

INDIAN EXPRESS, Posted online: Wed Jul 14 2010, 02:50 hrs

Kolkata : Some have termed it a gimmick, others a propaganda but Raja Sarkar of Arya Opera is not wary of the criticisms for his decision to stage Jananeta Comrade Jyoti Basu — a jatra-opera on the life and times of the legendary leader.

The jatra, focusing on the entire political career of the country’s longest serving chief minister, will be staged first on September 17, coinciding with the Vishwakarma Puja celebrations.

Sarkar, who is both the script-writer and the director of the jatra, will begin the rehearsals from August 18.

Sitting inside the tiny, congested office of the 40-year old Arya Opera, located in the bylanes of Chitpur, the hub of Bengal’s jatra — a form of folk theatre depending on melodrama and hyperbole — Goutam Chakraborty, the producer, said he had conceptualised the jatra the very next day after Basu’s demise. “Later, I sat with Raja to give a concrete shape to my ideas, and the project was finalised,” he added.

With its penchant for bringing alive political themes, the Bengali jatras in the past have depicted the lives and times of several political figures ranging from Spartacus to Karl Marx, Lenin and Stalin; from Hitler to Subhash Chandra Bose and Sheikh Mujibur Rehman.

“I personally admire Jyoti Basu and his political pragmatism. Like any other human being, I am sure there were some faults in his character too. But for me, his merits are rare. I wanted the people to take a trip through the life of this legend,” said Sarkar, who will be performing Basu on stage. To play the roles of Somnath Chatterjee and Subhash Chakrobarty, who were close to Basu, the actors have not been decided yet. The jatra will begin with a scene of Basu breathing his last in a hospital, and from there it will take off in a flashback mode, depicting every significant event in the leader’s life — starting from the time he returned to India after completing his law in England.

“We have tried to divide Basu’s life into three parts. We will focus from the time when he first actively joined parliamentary elections in 1946, followed by his involvement with the food movements like Tebhaga movement, and his undeniable role behind the forming of the Left Front in 1976 and then again in 1979,” said Sarkar.

“It is very difficult to capture the wide spectrum of Basu’s political life in a two-and-a-half to three-hour long jatra. We don’t have many artists also. Many cast members will have to play more than one role,” Sarkar added.

Emphasising that the jatra is strictly based on the political career of Basu, Chakraborty said, “To keep the length short we had to entirely chop out his personal life. Even Chandan Basu and Kamal Basu or his granddaughter could not be fitted in.”

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