Eminent theatre personality Usha Ganguly, known for her non-conformist productions like Mahabhoj, Rudali, Court Martial and Antaryatra, died following a heart attack on Thursday at her south Kolkata residence, her family said.
Ganguly, 75, a Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee who helped establish the rich tradition of Hindi theatre in Bengal, was found motionless in her flat in the Lake Gardens area of the city by her housemaid around 7 am.
A doctor was called in who declared that she died of a massive cardiac arrest a few minutes earlier.
Ganguly has a son but lived alone in her flat. Her husband Kamalendu died some years back.
Ganguly, who founded the Rangakarmee group in 1976, is credited with introducing a new form of alternative Hindi theatre in Bengal.
"Theatre is my only life and passion and Rangkarmee is my family," she used to say of her bond with theatre, a friend recalled.
Rangakarmee gave a separate idiom, a new language to theatre in Bengal and created a new audience, which had till then been familiar with only Bengali group theatre and English theatre in the late 1970s and 80s.
Alongside thespian late Shyamanand Jalan, the founder of Padatik, one of India's premier institutions in the field of performing arts, Ganguly ushered in the rich, glorious tradition of Hindi theatre in Kolkata having both Bengali and non-Bengali speaking audiences.
Her Bengali productions include Mukti and Manasi. She also worked with filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh during the scripting for Raincoat.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee condoled her death.
Recalling Ganguly's contribution to theatre, she said the state government had conferred on her the 'Girish Samman' in 2016.
"My deep condolences to her family and friends and followers," the chief minister said in a statement in Bengali.
She was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for direction in 1998 and also honoured by the West Bengal government with the 'Best Actress' award for the play 'Gudia Ghar'.
Born in Jodhpur into a family hailing from Uttar Pradesh, Ganguly had shown her prowess in the performing arts at a young age when she started learning Bharatanatyam.
She later moved to Kolkata and studied Hindi literature.
Director Aparna Sen, theatre personality Sohag Sen, director Sudeshna Roy and many other artistes from the theatre and film fraternity expressed shock over her death.
"I can't believe she is no more," Aparna Sen said.
Her last rites were performed in the presence of her family and members of Rangakarmee at the Keoratala crematorium.