When complete, these Archives will contain all my theatre reviews from 1986 to 2018 in The Telegraph, and since 2018 in The Times of India (except for those of currently running shows, which are placed under the Reviews tab). A visitor can therefore read about a vast panorama of Kolkata theatre during the last 35 years – thousands of productions in many languages, of all genres and inclinations – but limited, of course, to those to which I had received invitations for review. I believe that a group or organization has every right not to want a review, and that a critic should not write unsolicited reviews.

In uploading them, I went back to restoring my originals in their entirety, because often in the first ten years of my reviewing career, available column space dictated that subeditors had to cut my copy, sometimes even arbitrarily chopping me mid-paragraph, making me on occasion sound insane! On the other hand, I have omitted all the headlines, which fell into their territory and were never mine. In fact, the headlines frequently misrepresented my interpretations, causing much consternation to readers as proved by some who gave me feedback. On rare mornings, I even scrambled to apologize over the phone to an actor or director for an embarrassing title that distorted what the body of my review said!

Typically in India, groups invite critics later in the play’s run, not on opening night or the first few weeks, so a review appearing in a certain year could well refer to a production that premiered the previous year. A visitor looking for a particular production, therefore, may not find it listed in the year it opened, but later. They should search for the title of the play, but therein lies another hitch. Spellings of these titles in Indian languages are not standardized in English, consequently some intelligent trial-and-error may eventually locate the review (if indeed I wrote one).

While I follow the nationally officially-adopted Hunterian system of transliteration into English, I should explain one added principle that I have employed. In Bengali, the medium of 90% of theatre in Kolkata, the letter অ (a) and its inherent vowel attached to all consonants can be pronounced as “aw” or “o”. But if I use these English letters in transliterating it, the result invariably confuses non-Bengali Indians, for whom a common word like abhinay becomes the decidedly peculiar-looking obhinawey. In order to help in their recognition of Bengali vocabulary, I go by spelling rather than sound. And I apply the very useful, time-honoured “ā” for the long আ or “aa” – the latter spelling has become ubiquitous now, but if applied systematically, would make Bengali written in English look very odd indeed. Kolkata would turn into Kolkaataa, etc.

I have used “ā” only in play titles and stray words like āddā, not in the spellings of groups’ or people’s names. These pose another problem for the prospective researcher. The group Bohurupee spelt its name officially that way, though in Bengali transliteration into English it should be Bahurupi. Badal Sircar and Utpal Dutt spelt their names in English that way, whereas in Bengali their surnames would be rendered as Sarkar and Datta respectively. I have retained the preferred spellings of groups and people wherever commonly known. Thus, a visitor can optimize search results by trying out multiple keywords.

Happy searching!