It has always been the endeavour of Nabapalli Natya Sanstha, a leading Bengali theatre group in the Capital, to celebrate the life and works of great theatre artists of yesteryears, to educate and inform the present generation.

In their continuing efforts, the group recently celebrated the birth centenary of theatre icon of Delhi, Subimal Bandyopadhyay (22 March 1918-22 December 1992) at the BC Pal Auditorium in Chittaranjan Park.

The programme included three short plays by Nabapalli and a talk show by five eminent cultural figures. The session was chaired by Himadri Dutta, a noted poet and writer based in Delhi. The speakers shared their experience while being groomed under Subimal Bandhopadhyay’s guidance.

Subhasish Bandyopadhyay, the eldest son of this theatre genius, stated that his father believed in rigorous rehearsal and lay emphasis on histrionic skills and authentic characterisation, to which he was the witness since his childhood. Badal Ray of Bikalpa theatre group opined Subimal Bandyopadhyay as one of the fore-runners of experimental drama.

From the beginning, he kept himself aloof from the amateurish theatre in Delhi and the key to his uniqueness lay in creating a different audience for his professional approach. His productions were originally designed, meaningful and aesthetically elevating. He had both critical and creative mind.

Himadri Dutta informed that Subimal associated himself first with the then most celebrated Bengali Club, called Milan Samiti, and his first play was Tipu Sultan, in which his portrayal of Monsieur Lali was an instant hit. Later, as a front-ranking actor-director, he attached himself to many dramatic and cultural organisations of Delhi ~ Jugasangha, Kaalchakra, Dhumketu, Agragami, Jajabar and Binay Nagar Bengali Club.

Siddhartha Dasgupta of Dhumketu said Subimal Bandyopadhyay was a self-taught actor-director, who worked together with Harihar Bhattacharya, a scholar and academic of a high order. His magnum opus remains a Bengali adaptation of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. He further stated that the Capital’s Bengali Theatre earned respectability under his able direction.

Tapas Chanda, another established actor of the time, spoke about his teacher’s immense achievement in Jatra, a folk dramatic form of Bengal. Navapalli dedicated three dramatic presentations ~ Dadamoshai Rabindranath, Sottorer Dinguli and Pratham Pratishruti ~ to Subimal Bandyopadhyay.

The themes of the three plays were diverse and earned much appreciation from the audience. The script and direction of all the plays were by Biswajit Sinha. He said, “Being the Birth Centenary Year of one of the best-known theatre legends of Bengali Theatre in Delhi, it is fitting to pay tribute to this genius when theatre itself is at the crossroads in a modern digital age.”