Santanil Ganguly

New Performance

Grant Period: Over seven months

Jhalpala, a Kolkata-based theatre group has been active in children’s theatre since 1996. Santonil Ganguly, one of the founder members of Jhalpala, observes that the large majority of children in rural, suburban, and small town schools and those outside the schooling system seldom get opportunities to engage in the activity of theatre.

This grant supports Santonil Ganguly to transform a story written for children, Dushtu Bagh into a stage performance improvised and performed by the child artists of Jhalpala. The story is written by Upendra Kishore Roychowdhury (1863-1915), a pioneering figure of the Bengali printing industry, who wrote illustrated stories for children. Dushtu Bagh, simply put, is a story about the selfishness of human beings towards animals and nature.

The production will be developed working closely with the patua community in West Bengal. Patuas paint stories on patas (sheets of paper) or embroider them on cloth. The patachitra art form flourished during the Buddhist period. In those days, Patuas would narrate stories of Buddha and mythological and historical stories. In recent times, ecological and social themes have become part of their repertoire.

One of the most significant aspects of the work process will be the workshops with Patua artists, which will enable the children to understand the history, techniques, and colours of patachitras. They will practice painting various patas before attempting their own visualisation of Roychowdhury’s story on scrolls. The interpretation of the characters will be based on the visuals on the scrolls. Apart from visualising the story, the children will also evolve the script for the play in their own language. While the patas, painted by the children, will be used as a backdrop in the production, rhymes, songs, and music will enhance the children’s engagement with the play.

Jhalpala plans to travel with the production and show it in rural and urban West Bengal. It will be performed for children and adults in indoor as well as outdoor locations. The production will therefore be designed keeping portability in mind and the need to adapt to diverse performance circumstances and minimal infrastructural facilities.

The first show is expected to be held in a patua village in June 2009.