Shatarupa Bhattacharyya, Theatre Maker

Growing up in a typical Bengali Household from Kolkata, introduction to art and aesthetics is something which was not uncommon and unheard of. Since the time I learnt basic spelling, I remember tagging my mother to dance classes and theatre shows and being amazed by the spectacular world of stage. Thus, it was quite natural that as a ‘hobby’ I was always encouraged to pursue art in every shape and form. Fast forward to year 2009, when I was pursuing my M.Phil. in History at the University of Hyderabad, where I accidentally stumbled upon theatre. Since then I embarked upon an eventful journey; a journey which is filled with uncertainty and unpredictability but is beautiful and challenging. What again started as a ‘hobby’ or an extra-curricular activity soon became the most important part of my life. My first play was Bertoit Brecht’s Mother Courage and her Children where I portrayed the character of Yvette Pottier. The first noticeable thing that struck me was that I was able to understand the director’s instructions and people who saw me on stage stated that I was effortless and true. I was applauded, even though my presence of stage was not for very long. Soon from there I was picked up by another director for Badal Sircar’s Evam Indrajeet and from there Prof. Mohan Mahrishi casted me for ‘Yahin Kahi Bohot Door’ and so on. Theatre just came naturally to me. And yes I was good at it.

I shifted to Bangalore in 2012 for my PhD and took a break from theatre for two years. My parents became concerned as I was growing in theatre, they thought, I might leave my education. I won’t lie that I did not think about it. I did. But today, when I hold a PhD degree, I am also grateful that I did not end that in order to pursue my journey in theatre. Because I was doing my PhD, it gave me ample scope to explore that world. I did not have any fixed hour of working. If I am working in mornings, evenings I doing my rehearsals and vice versa. In spite of working with few eminent names, in Bangalore I started again from scratch. I started doing 10 minutes short plays and eventually in 2015 landed my first role in a full length play with Bangalore Little Theatre. In that show, I remember this one lady from the audience who came up to me and asked whether I am a professional theatre actor. I replied no to which she said, ‘pity. I must say you missed your calling.’ Did I? I wasn’t sure. Since then I have worked with some wonderful people in this city, acted in more than 15 full length plays in Hindi and English, judged events and even helped and guided few who wants to take up theatre.

The most important thing that I had to struggle with is to convince myself, that what I am doing or what I am loving is legitimate; that maybe at the end of the day I won’t be able to have a bank balance or that I shall never have ‘job security’ or won’t be able to take foreign holidays every now and then. I really had to convince myself that because I choose today to be an independent theatre maker that it is alright to miss out few luxuries of life. Maybe today I can’t readily take an uber or might think twice before I indulge in an extravagant expense but I do feel happy. I do feel at peace that I am few in this huge universe who is doing what they love. I am one of those lucky ones who have their family behind them that my parents proudly say, that yes my daughter is practices theatre, in spite of not being formally trained. I learnt theatre by working with people. Each time I worked with an individual or a group, I pick up something. That is how I grew as an artist or even as a human being. Today, I act on stage, I have directed one play and another one is soon going on stage and I am writing a play as well; what more can I ask for! I have made friends who are thicker than my family and I have created a world for myself where I feel safe and content. Each character that I have played, whether it is in 10 minute play or in a 120 minute one, are all close to my heart, because I gave birth and nurtured them.

I am not sure whether I have the capacity to inspire anyone. But I do know and I do insist anyone who works with me to impart in them that there is no hierarchy in this magical world. That everyone should be treated equally with love and respect. There is nothing called a big play or small play. Or big people or small people. Every play is special, every character that comes alive onstage has a story to say and we are no one to judge whether that story is worth telling or not.

I do hope that people take our work seriously and that it is not a ‘hobby’ for us. There is certain degree of labor, time and energy that we put in and for many of us it is our bread and butter. We are creators which requires as much brain and heart as it is needed in any other field. In fact more probably. When I say that I am a theatre maker, do not tell me, ‘ya that is alright. But what do you do for work?’ Because this is my work and I love it.


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