Natyotsav 2019

Venue: Houston Durgabari Date: Saturday, May 25 - Sunday, May 26; Saturday Time: 4:30 pm - 11:30 pm; Sunday Time: 6/27/19 2:30 pm - 6/27/19 7:30 pm Hosted By: HDBS

Natyotsav is our signature Memorial-weekend Drama Festival. The 2019 Natyotsav featured 10 plays by local teams as well as teams from all over the US. Natyotsav 2019 was organized by Kumkum Bhattacharya, Souvik Ghose, Swapan Dasgupta, Anirban Mukherjee, and other Houston Durgabari drama enthusiasts.

HDBS Drama Festival outplays the previous years

By Sanchali Basu

Houston Durga Bari Society (HDBS) takes pride in hosting the “Dipika Dasgupta  Memorial” Bengali drama festival for the past 18 years. It attracts drama groups from all over the country. This year was no exception. Literature, dance, drama, music, art runs in the veins of Bengalis and in comparison with other Indian communities, drama particularly ranks high in Bengalis.

This year’s festival boasted 10 plays over 2 days May 25-26 at the Sur Auditorium in the Durgabari complex. Odissi dance presentation by the Kalaangan School, and the ceremonial lamp lighting were part of the inauguration. The first day featured 5 plays.

The first play, a production of the local Tagore Society of Houston, was predictably Tagore’s “TotaKahini.” It brought forward the harmful effects of the ever burdening system of “caged,” formalized education, which holds relevance to date.

Ranaangan,” staged by the Detroit, Millits group, very effectively dealt with the inner battles of a woman photo journalist who has been covering war torn areas over the world and the conflicts with her partner who is also a journalist but cannot seem to understand her passion for being out in the field. She finds a new perspective when the fiancée of their editor, through her simplistic outlook encourages her to follow a more peaceful, compassionate lifestyle.

Mahua,” my personal favorite, was a unique musical ballad-like presentation by the DFW group. Based on ancient folklore, it was a very high energy dramatization of the predicament of a young gypsy girl who stole the heart of many a lover, affecting the livelihood of the gypsy tribe, ruled by her father. Grim circumstances ensued due to betrayal, respect and loyalty, leading to a very gripping ending.

“Love Story #5” was a short and sweet enactment of how life’s responsibilities and duties change the dynamics of a love affair from the exciting to the mundane, but still carries its charm in an old fashioned way. The presentation by “Ebong Theatrix” of Greater Washington, DC pulled at the heart strings of the immigrant audience who make a continuous attempt to stay connected to their homeland roots.

Beshya,” by “Brishchik” of Seattle, Washington brought the painful, real life story of Suzette Jordan, an Anglo Indian based in Kolkata, brutally gang raped on the streets of Kolkata, to life. It showed how the detestable, vile mentality of some men can make women react. It provided a very heavy dose of how women are still viewed by society, even in this day and age of “Women’s Rights.”

The next evening started with a very refreshing, “Aabaar Chollo Gupi Bagha,” by CTBA of Austin. The children’s drama was a take-off on the legendary characters Gupi Gayen and Bagha Bayen made famous by Satyajit and Upendra Kishore Ray. Every Bengali grows up with these magical powers possessing characters, solving every world problem. They have been assigned this time to deal with modern day environmental, political and war related issues and it is interesting to see how they came through with their amazingly scripted lines in rhyme. It was impressive to see second generation Bengalis memorize and render their lines in rhyme so impeccably.

Mukur,” audio drama by Friends of Boston included some local talent and cast a spell of suspense over the goings on surrounding the suicide of a woman. Interestingly, every family member at a get together celebrating the engagement of a couple seems to be mysteriously tied to this woman. What follows leaves the audience wondering.

Aamaar Hiyaar Majhe,” by Kathalay, Dallas played around the guilty emotions of a radio jockey, who may have been involved in the mysterious death of a singer girl friend, who comes to haunt him through the radio waves.

Banarer Thaba,” by Swagata, Houston left the entire audience guessing when a family is provided with an ape paw which can grant 3 wishes. They did not realize at what cost those wishes will be fulfilled, and was very well enacted by the 4 cast members.

Mamonir Chhobi,” the concluding play by Ebong Theatrix, Washington DC was a nice interplay between an elderly lady and a younger maidservant, both forced to stay away from their children, and how the bond of loneliness connects the 2 characters.

The festival was well organized with food stalls serving delicious snacks and dinner prepared by the HDBS kitchen crew. Stalls with saris, jewelry and free tea samples were very popular.


Natyotsav  2019 Blog

By Sourindra Maiti

The audience’s applause echoes around the theater. The curtains fall, the lights go out, and the whole room goes quiet. Then comes the Emcee’s declaration, “please give one more big applause to all the participants and the volunteers that contributed to making this year’s Natyotsav (drama festival) event successful.” It was the ending of the eighteenth “Dipika Dasgupta memorial Natyotsav”, a unique annual Natyotsav event held by HDBS in the Bayou city. The indomitable spirit and hard work of dedicated HDBS volunteers for the last two months and the participation of two local drama teams and eight outside teams, both from Texas and outside of Texas resulted in two captivating evenings. Astounding presentation, extraordinary light and sound along with impressive acting covering almost every aspect of life and society enthralled the audiences. Mouthwatering snacks and delightful Bengali dinner and deserts planned and prepared by HDBS kitchen volunteers were served during the intermissions which made the event even more charming.

Bengal has always been famous for its art and culture and Bengali theater has made an immense contribution to enriching Bengal’s heritage. Starting from almost the sixteenth century, Bengali theater evolved over time and gained a redefined dimension mirroring socio-political and contemporary issues amidst its artistry. In earlier times, worship of gods and goddesses through devotional songs, dance, and “Kirtans” through “folk plays” and “jatra pala” mostly in rural areas reflected the voice, belief and feelings of the common people; during the pre-independence era the amalgamation of rural folk culture with urban patronage mostly through the western-educated Bengali city elite created a popular platform to express nationalism, consciousness against oppression and differentiations of society. It was through this development over time that had led to the formation of modern Bengali theater today. Through the theater platform, “Swadeshi Jatra” used to be performed to encourage dissent against the British during the freedom struggle by informing the masses of the current socio-political situation and as a non-formal education to the people as well. Actors and directors like Girish Ghosh, Sisir Bhaduri, stalwarts poets like Madhusudan Dutta, Dinabandhu Mitra and even Tagore were involved in the development of Bengali theater. Tagore’s involvement provided a new horizon in the Bengali drama field by inspiring more sophistication, emotion, boldness, and romanticism. Post-independence, Bengali theater and Jatra pala continued its glorious run in cities, towns and rural areas and several major stalwart actors like Utpal Dutta, Ajitesh Bandopadhyay, Sambhu Mitra made this the golden period of Bengali theater.

Theaters allow actors and actresses to connect directly with their audiences. Compared to other social media platforms, theater is inexpensive and is a suitable viable platform to do more experiments, sometimes irrespective of the merit of the production. In the era of social media and TV, when people are more inclined to enjoy the arts through cinema, computer, iPad and TV, the target audience for theater is unfortunately, gradually declining. Although several theater halls in Kolkata are regularly producing theater shows, many Bengali Theater’s golden days famous theater halls in Kolkata are in dilapidated and decrepit conditions. Additionally, now-a-days “folk plays” and or “Jatra pala” are becoming history in rural Bengal where they once represented the voice of the common people. Bengali theater needs to spread its wings and go back to its roots not only for its content and form but to also hold on to its unique tradition. We call upon Bengali expatriates and importantly “next Gen” Bengali children growing up in foreign lands like in Houston to play an important role to use theater as a platform and usher in a new dawn to resuscitate Bengal’s age old history, culture, and tradition taking Bengali theater greater heights.


Natyotsav 2019 Schedule

Saturday May 25
# Time (pm) Drama Name Team Genre
1 05:30 Totakahini Tagore Society Houston Satire
2 06:10 Ronangon Michigan Social
07:10 SNACKS: Fish Fry, Mochar Chop; Chhanar Jilipi, Khaja
3 07:30 Love Story #5 Ebong Theatrix Romantic Comedy
4 08:10 Mohua DFW Play Folk
09:20 DINNER: Kosha Mangsho, Chingri Malaikari, Navratan Korma, Beans Posto, Rice 
5 10:00 Beshya Brishchik Societal
Sunday May 26
# Time (pm) Drama Name Team Genre
1 02:30 Goopi Bagha Austin Kids
2 03:30 Sruti Natok Boston Social
04:30 REFRESHMENTS: Water, Coke, Tea
3 05:00 Amar Hiyar Majhe Dallas Kothaloy Suspense
05:30 SNACKS: Egg/Chicken Roll, Ghugni, Fish Fry, Mochar Chop; Chhanar Jilipi, Khaja
4 06:15 Banorer Thaba BTH Thriller/Horror
5 07:00 Mamonir Chhobi Ebong Theatrix Pathos

Special promotional videos: