Bengali folk theatre gets a Bollywood twist (Feature)

July 18th, 2011 - 1:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Mamata Banerjee Kolkata, July 18 (IANS) Jatra, the popular Bengali folk theatre form, is being dished out with some Bollywood garnishing. While veterans like Asrani and Shakti Kapoor have done it in the past, this time actresses Raveena Tandon and Monica Bedi have jumped into the jatra bandwagon.

Tandon will play the lead role in “Roop Sagarer Roopasi” (Beauty of the Beautiful Sea). Directed by Kanak Bhattacharya, the show is expected to be a big draw this festive season. The promos are already creating a flutter among the masses who love jatra.

“Yes, we have signed her (Tandon) for our show. She will play the lead. An actress of her repute will be seen for the first time in Bengali jatra that has mass audiences, particularly in small towns. She was very excited about the offer and we too are. The response has also been tremendous after we came up with the advertisement in newspapers,” said Bhattacharya.

The actress, who had won the National Award for her performance in Kalpana Lajmi’s “Daman”, made her Bengali debut in Raja Sen’s “Laboratory”, based on a story by Rabindranath Tagore.

Bhattacharya added: “For long we have been looking for Bollywood stars but couldn’t get them because of some problems. But this time we are very fortunate to have her. She was the first name we had thought of and it has worked out well.”

Bengali jatra, which still continues to be a rich source of entertainment, particularly among the rural masses, is all geared up for the festive season. Play rehearsals have begun in right earnest.

Jatra is West Bengal’s traditional folk theatre form and is very popular in rural areas. It combines acting, songs, music and dance and is performed by troupes that travel from one place to another. Stylised delivery, exaggerated gestures and high decibel oratory are some salient features of the jatra.

In some ways, it has the flavour of Bollywood many times over.

Hindi movie starlet Monica Bedi, known more for her association with underworld don Abu Salem than her acting skills, too will be seen in a jatra titled “Chirodiner Sathi” (Companions Forever).

“Jatra lovers want to see fresh faces and prefer Bollywood artistes. We have earlier worked actors like Shakti Kapoor and Asrani. We heard that she was interested in doing jatra. We approached her and she readily accepted,” says Ramen Palit, one of the producers.

Palit also added that language will not be a problem. “Earlier, Asrani or Shakti Kapoor acted in Hindi only. Likewise, she too will act in Hindi with one or two dialogues in Bengali.”

Following her release from jail, Bedi is trying to make a career in showbiz, after trying her hand in some reality shows on television.

The audiences, meanwhile, are lapping up the trend.

“I am a great fan of Ravina. I don’t know how many times I have watched her “Tu cheez badi hai mast mast” dance. It’s great that I can now see her before my eyes,” said Chanchal Das, a shopkeeper in Panchla in Howrah district.

“Monica Bedi was known for her oomph factor for some time. But years after she faded away, she hogged the limelight because of her links with Abu Salem. This made her a celebrity again. And who does not want to watch a celebrity in person?” asked Shyamali Dutta, a teacher in Murshidabad district’s Baharampur town.

Some jatra producers are preparing shows based on the life of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

From Mamata to Monica, the audiences will surely be spoilt for choice.

(Anurag Dey can be contacted at

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