Free Press Journal

Minister, MP, thespians quit pro-Trinamool theatre forum


Kolkata: The back-to-back resignations of a minister, an MP and two well-known stage personalities have left a pro-Trinamool Congress theatre forum tottering amid allegations of power play only two years after its formation as an umbrella body of 500 groups spread across West Bengal.

The group theatre platform – Natya Swajan – so far managed and controlled by a bunch of leading figures on the Bengali stage owing allegiance to the Trinamool, has played a big role in rallying theatre personalities in favour of the ruling party since it came up in end 2012.

State Tourism Minister and noted playwright Bratya Basu was the founder president, and noted theatre personality Arpita Ghosh – now Trinamool Congress Lok Sabha MP – its general secretary.

The recent exodus started when thespian Manish Mitra, vice president of Natya Swajan, put in his papers in November, alleging dictatorship in the running of the organisation and a “terrible state of fear”.

“A terrible state of fear, the fear for survival, has descended over Bengal, where every opposition or criticism would be nipped in the bud by means of threat, coercion and implications in false cases,” said Mitra.

He also quit all government committees.

Things worsened Tuesday last, when leading stage figure Debesh Chattopadhyay opted out from Natya Swajan. Initially, Chattopadhyay claimed his resignation was due to “personal issues”, but later spoke of a “suffocating atmosphere” that hindered creativity.

He also quit from the panel of the government-controlled Paschim Banga Natya Akademi and the Minerva Repertory Theatre.

Trinamool Congress MP Arpita Ghosh left the group Thursday, following which Bratya Basu also resigned.

“Politics is not an issue here. The decision was not due to any political reason. The work we had expected to do, we could not do,” Ghosh told a TV channel.

However, she added in an apparent reference to Basu: “There was a strong hint of power. So long friends remain friends, you can walk together. But when there is the arrogance of power, then it’s impossible to be together.”

Basu has not commented on the developments so far.

A big chunk of theatre personalities had come close to the Trinamool when they strongly protested against the erstwhile left Front government’s move to acquire agricultural land for setting up industries in Singur and Nandigram post 2006.

They actively campaigned for the Trinamool in the 2009 Lok Sabha and 2011 Assembly elections, where the Mamata Banerjee led party won and came to power in the state.

Though a few of the theatre personalities chose to distance themselves from the Trinamool subsequently and started criticising it on various issues, the majority of the actors, directors, playwrights and other stage workers have sided with the ruling party and became a part of Natya Swajan, which now seems on the brink of collapse.