Ananda Lal

Ananda Lal

Born in 1955, I first experienced the magic of the stage firsthand in a few plays as a student of St Xavier’s School, Kolkata. I learnt theatre hands-on with the Kolkata group The Red Curtain, which I joined after completing school in 1973. A graduate of Presidency College and the University of Calcutta (BA 1976, MA 1978), I realized that I wanted to study world theatre in-depth, so I did a Ph.D. in Theatre from the University of Illinois, USA, in 1986.

Returning to Kolkata, I got a lecturer’s position at Jadavpur University, from where I retired in 2017 as Professor of English. At Jadavpur, I taught drama and introduced a practical theatre course in which I directed students for public performances every year for 25 years. My project to establish in Jadavpur University a Tagore Cultural Complex with four separate theatre spaces won the prestigious Ministry of Culture funding from the Government of India but has still not materialized.

I began writing on theatre in 1978 in the Kolkata newspaper The Hindustan Standard. As theatre critic of The Telegraph (1986-2018) and now of The Times of India, I have reviewed more than 3000 productions. My most important books include, in order of publication, Rabindranath Tagore: Three Plays (the first English book exclusively on Tagorean drama), Rasa: The Indian Performing Arts, Shakespeare on the Calcutta Stage, The Oxford Companion to Indian Theatre (the first reference work on this subject in any language), Twist in the Folktale: Three Plays, Theatres of India, Indian Drama in English: The Beginnings and Utpal Dutt: Barricade.

I have directed over 30 theatre productions, worked on many others, especially such international successes as Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream (directed by Tim Supple) for which I did the dramaturgy, and lectured widely abroad and at home on Indian theatre. I wrote the teleplay of a nine-episode serial on “Two Hundred Years of Bengali Theatre” for Doordarshan, and translated into English plays by Tagore and Utpal Dutt.

Married to Swati, a teacher (we met at auditions for a play in 1973), I have a daughter, Shuktara, and a son, Dhruva.

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Our Purpose

On World Theatre Day 2020, we inaugurate Kolkatatheatre.com. Ever since the worldwide web actually became worldwide as the go-to medium for information, I have felt the need of a website dedicated to theatre in Kolkata. Frequently, I proposed to interested groups with resources that they launch such a site, but nothing happened. Surprisingly, after so many years, and although similar sites exist for other cities, the city where modern Indian theatre began and still flourishes does not possess such a portal. A few sites do provide some listings, but these either cover performing arts and culture in general or restrict themselves to theatre in the majority language, Bengali.

The main purpose of Kolkatatheatre.com is to offer basic facts-at-fingertips about the theatre performances in Kolkata every week. Language and form of theatre no bar. Time and again friends and acquaintances have asked me what plays they can see on a certain date, or in the short term, or even long-term. Visitors from outside Kolkata have sought my recommendations too. It is embarrassing for Kolkata that we cannot name one place – whether newspapers or online – where they can find this information to enable them to decide what to see. Kolkatatheatre.com hopes to fill this vacuum.

We request all groups to contact us about their forthcoming performances in Kolkata with adequate advance notice so that we can upload these on a weekly basis. They should give the following details:

  • Date and time of performance
  • Title of play/production
  • Group
  • Dramatist
  • Director
  • Venue
  • A short 25-word description in English of the play/performance, with a photo

We do not have a team, office, funds or advertising revenue. Therefore, we request all groups to make a token contribution to us of the price of the cheapest ticket to each listed show, so that we can feel happy that Kolkata’s theatre community supports this enterprise. Once you contact us, we shall tell you the mode of payment. Those groups that do not charge spectators for admission (like street theatre, Third Theatre, Forum Theatre and so on) need not pay. We welcome all theatre work.

One more item. As the author of books on theatre, I realize the importance to posterity of theatre criticism, which I have often depended on to reconstruct aspects of old productions, for it preserves responses in print to our art that is ephemeral by nature. I have reviewed theatre in Kolkata for over 40 years. I believe it may be of service to theatre history and researchers as well if I upload those reviews gradually in our Archives. I shall start with current productions so that those visitors who may wish to know my opinion about running shows could read my criticism here.

We hope you like and consult Kolkatatheatre.com, and that it helps you. Break a leg!

– Ananda Lal

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