Politics and theatre: A story of the oppressed in Bengal

Third theatre appeals to the audience, in the strongest unspoken words, to reconsider their role as responsible citizens of a civilised society. | Illustration & Graphics - Eunice Dhivya

"I was murdered today. Yesterday. Day before... I get murdered every day. I will be murdered tomorrow."

Khoka cries out loud. He speaks to the audience and tries to tell the same to a police officer. But his screams fall on deaf ears. The principal character in theatre-great Badal Sarkar's Michhil (Rally, in Bengali), Khoka, has been the epitome of the oppressed, whose woes find no audience, and his suffering, no end. And Khoka dies time and again, daily.

A harsh reminder to the contemporary situation, Michhil and several other plays by Sarkar and other playwrights have shaped modern political or protest theatre in Bengal over the last few decades, and over a century, if we count the pre-Independence movements.

But with changing times, political polarities, and suppression of dissent and throttling of free voice, political theatre in the state has seen several makeovers. Still, what remains is the enthusiasm and unswerving determination of some artistes who are keen on taking forward the legacies of Badal Sarkar and his likes who dared to raise voice for the voiceless.

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