Without doubt, this year’s Natasurya Drama Festival has turned out to be the most outstanding one since its inception. The 23rd edition of the event, organised by Natasurya Memorial Celebration Committee in association with the Directorate of Cultural Affairs, Assam, from August 1 to 7, treated the audience to a weeklong theatre festival at the Sri Sri Madhab Dev International Auditorium and Srimanta Sankaradeva International Auditorium, Kalakshetra, Guwahati.
I was highly impressed with the quality of plays this year, distinguished by their singular artistry and aesthetics. One could notice a sea of change and obvious professionalism in the use of sound, make-up, costume and lighting, music, among other things, that made the experience both very enjoyable and stimulating for the culturally conscious people of the bustling metropolitan city.
This year, the celebration committee dedicated the first six nights of the drama festival to the memory of renowned Assamese cultural personalities. The seven day festival opened with the performance of celebrated Swedish playwright Johan August Strindberg's ‘Miss Julie’, which was directed by Boloram Das (the evening’s performance was dedicated to the memory of Munin Barua). The successive plays, that followed, thereafter were - ‘Swabhabjata’, which was scripted and directed by Baharul Islam (the evening was dedicated to the memory of Biju Phukan), Jintu Bhattacharya’s ‘Ejon Ahangkari Manuh’, directed by Arjoo Amin and Tapan Deka (the evening dedicated to the memory of Abdul Majid), Nabajyoti Bora’s ‘Hoyera Jetuki Baai’, directed by Moni Bordoloi (the evening’s performance was dedicated to the memory of Sukracharya Rabha), Dr Ajit Bharali’s ‘Dhanbar Ratani’, directed by Jyoti Prasad Bhuyan (the evening was dedicated to the memory of Natyaprabar Sarada Kanta Bordoloi), Gyas Uddin Ahmed’s ‘Bhagnangsha’, directed by Ashim Krishna Boruah (the performance was dedicated to the memory of Jeevan Shilpi Lakshyadhar Choudhury), and winding up with the most anticipated historical play ‘Chanakya’, acted in and directed by the well-known film, television and stage actor Padmashree awardee Manoj Joshi. Interestingly, the play, presented by the Mumbai-based group Dharmajam, has been staged continuously for the last 24 years.
The festival also saw the felicitation of renowned art director of film and theatre, the Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee Nuruddin Ahmed and noted stage director and dramatist Gyas Uddin Ahmed. The festival’s opening night was inaugurated by the Oil India Limited (OIL) Chairman and Managing Director, Utpal Bora. The evenings, thereafter, on successive days, were inaugurated by eminent actor and writer Dilip Kumar Hazarika; Director of Cultural Affairs, Assam, Barnali Sharma; eminent dramatist, director and actor Dulal Roy; distinguished educationist Amarjyoti Choudhury; and Virendra Mittal, Deputy Commissioner of Kamrup (Metro). The lighting of the traditional lamp, before the dramatic enactment on the final day, was carried out by Himangshu Sekhar Das. The occasion was also graced by Nayanmoni Bora, former CMD of OIL.
Commemorating the 48th death anniversary of Natasurya Phani Sarma, the apostle of theatre in Assam, ‘Natasurya’ - an invaluable, beautifully designed souvenir, containing articles in both Assamese and English, supervised and edited by Basanta Kumar Barua, Pranjal Saikia, Chandrajit Saikia, Ramkrishna Sarma and Upakul Bordoloi, was also released at the festival.
The sincerity and diligent efforts of the Celebration Committee was evident all throughout the seven-day event. The committee left no stone unturned for promoting quality theatrical productions since its very inception. Actively involved in promoting and disseminating theatre arts, and working towards peace and harmony in the region, it has always been the committee’s unmitigated mission to align itself with the national theatre movement. It’s worth a mention here that Natasurya Drama Festival had in the past showcased the performances of renowned theatre personalities like Naseeruddin Shah, Nadira Babbar, Lillete Dubey, Soumitra Chatterjee, Rajendra Gupta, Makrand Deshpande, Neena Gupta, Rakesh Bedi, Shekhar Sen, Ratan Thiyam, among others.
The overall success, in general, can also be attributed to the meticulous, round the clock work done by around 50 youths, who were specially appointed by the committee to look after the event.