‘Borda Borda’ and the Theatre of Bengal: Goutam Halder’s interview at AMI Arts Festival 2022
Noted thespian of contemporary Bengali stage, Goutam Haldar performed his theatrical adaptation of Munshi Premchand’s short story Bade Bhai Sahib (or The Elder Brother), at AMI Arts Festival 2022. This one-act, solo play titled Borda Borda was staged at Rabindra Tirtha and received a very warm welcome from a diverse range of audience. The play explores the intricate relationship of the narrator with his elder brother and the tussle of their views on student life during their school days.
We present to you an interview by Mr. Halder on Borda Borda and his thoughts on Bengali theatre.
KCC: Why did you select “Borda Borda” as the story you wanted to present at this event?
Goutam Halder: Borda Borda is an 18-year-old story. It has been performed in theaters across India and the world. When Borda was produced it surprisingly took me 5 days to prepare the whole affair.
For Natyaswapnakalpa, thespian Bibhas Chakraborty had asked me to produce a play written by a non-Bengali writer. Out of the numerous plays written by non-Bengali writers, I liked Premchand’s Bade Bhai Sahab. The story is told in first person narration and is extremely interesting, loaded with deep educational insights.
The story of Borda Borda is vividly comic and funny, but in the end we see that when it comes to duties, responsibilities and relationships, Borda comes first, in spite of being a failure when it comes to his academics. As the story is told in the first person narration, there is solo acting.
The rehearsal took place in 5 days and the play is not set in the conventional format.
If Premchand was alive in today’s digital media world, perhaps he too would’ve been asked to interview. The play was envisioned in an interview format where a camera is present and an interview is taking place. This interview is projected on the big screen present behind and simultaneously it’s been played out live on the stage as well. This is extremely popular even today and attracts the heart of the audience.
KCC: How do you think an audience’s reception to a production matters in adaptations?
Goutam: A primary rule of theatre is to present a portrait of the contemporary times, the language and what is relevant for the contemporary audience. I always choose classic stories. I’ve adapted Dostoevsky, Shakespeare, Rabindranath Tagore, Premchand, Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay and Michael Madhusudan Dutt’s Meghnad Badh Kavya.
KCC: It is almost 4 decades since you have been a part of Bengali theatre. Do you feel that the essence of Bengali Theatre, in terms of its production, distribution and reception has changed over decades? Especially in the new millennium?
Goutam: Yes, theatre has definitely changed in order to capture the popular element. It’s always changing and without change theatre wouldn’t be alive. But it’s also important to capture how and where the change is happening and whether I’m able to do meaningful theatre or not. It’s the goal of every thespian from the standpoint of his theatre, to be able to do and think something meaningful for his life, the society and for himself.
KCC: AMI Arts Festival is a melange of performances, open for all, where everyone can enjoy your performance. What are your thoughts on this festival so far?
Goutam: Theatre is a type of social work and AMI Arts Festival is also a part of the same noble cause, almost like a marriage of minds.
*This interview has been conducted by Ms. Anamika Mukhopadhyay, student of M.A. (in English) at the University of Calcutta.
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Goutam Halder, the doyen of Bengali theatre, began his journey as an actor – director in 1986. He has so far appeared in over 100 different roles on stage as an actor and has directed more than 40 plays. His notable theatre productions/performances include 'Meghnad Badh Kabya' and 'Borda Borda'. Goutam Halder is also revered as a mentor and tutor of dramatics. His formulation of a unique style of acting has been influencing the Bengali stage even today. He has also contributed as lecturer and demonstrator at Georgia University in Athens, Georgia, USA; Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Scotland, UK, and International Dance & Theatre Festival, Goteborg, Sweden – 2002.