• Women We Admire: Maya Ghosh, Veteran Actor of Bengali Theatre

    Jayoti Bose interviews the actor

    The adjective "veteran" does not carry the entire weight of Maya Ghosh's six decade long career in Bengali theatre, and later in television and films. Ghosh is one of the major actors in the Bengali group theatre movement, which began with the formation of Bohurupee in 1948. The group theatre movement broke out of the Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA) but was largely progressive in character, more Left than Liberal.

    Ghosh began her career in Ajitesh Bandyopadhyay's play Saotali Bidroho, performed by the Dum Dum IPTA unit. When Bandyopadhyay left it to form Nandikar, Ghosh became one of the leading actors in the group, with unforgettable performances in Bidehi (an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts) and Natyokarer Sondhane Chhoti Choritro (an adaptation of Luigi Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author). 

    When a number of members left Nandikar to form Theatre Workshop, she joined the group and, once again, became its leading actors with landmark performances in Rajrakta (written by Mohit Chattopadhyay and directed by Bibhash Chakraborty), Bela Obelar GolpoVietnam and several other plays. Besides these, she has acted in countless office club productions as well as in other groups. 

    What drove her to theatre, however, was poverty, and even now her life is plagued by financial difficulties. Even though she has received several awards, including the Paschimbanga Natya Akademi Puraskar (West Bengal State Theatre Academy Award) for her performance in Bela Obelar Golpo in 1987, the corpus of her work is largely unacknowledged, and unknown outside of Bengal. The only available account of her life has been published as Monchoy Jibon (A Life on the Stage), edited by Rushita Sen and published by Thema. 

    The interview in Bengali was taken by Jayoti Bose, one of the directors in Bengali theatre, and founder of the Gripps theatre in Bangla theatre.  It was taken at Tepantar, a theatre village in Satkunia village, West Bengal. We are thankful to Bose, Samik Bandyopahdyay and Kallol Bhattacharya, for making this interview possible.

    Souradeep Roy

    You can watch the first two parts of the "Women We Admire" series here and here; read the second and fourth here and here.

    For more on the Bengali group theatre movement, read the Seagull Theatre Quarterly on our archives.

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