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Usha Ganguly, veteran theatre actor passes away

Usha Ganguly was the only second theatre director to practice Hindi theatre in Kolkata.

Apr 23, 2020 12:55 IST
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Usha Ganguly, veteran theatre actor and director, passed away on April 23, 2020 after suffering from a cardiac arrest. She was 75. 

Ganguly was an eminent theatre personality who is most known for her work in Hindi theatre in Kolkata in the period between the 1970s and 1980s. She founded the theatre group, Rangakarmee, in 1976. The theatre group produced many plans such as Rudali, Mahabhoj, Himmat Mai, Antaryatra and Court Martial.

Usha Ganguly was honoured by the West Bengal Government as the best actress for her role in the play Gudia Ghar. She was the only other theatre director apart from Shyamanand Jalan of Padatik to practice Hindi theatre in the largely-Bengali speaking Kolkata.

About Usha Ganguly 

• Born in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, Usha Ganguly later moved to Kolkata, where she did her master's degree in Hindi literature. She started her professional career as a Hindi teacher at Kolkata's Bhowanipur Education Society College, which is an undergraduate college affiliated with Calcutta University.

• Ganguly started acting in the same year with Sangit Kala Mandir and started work on her first play Mitti Ki Gadi, where she essayed the role of Vasantsena. The play was based on Mrichchakatikam by Shudrak, 1970.

• She continued teaching at the Bhowanipur Education Society College till her retirement in 2008 and kept practicing theatre alongside.

• She had founded the theatre group 'Rangakarmee' in 1976. Initially, the group invited directors from outside including MK Anvase, who directed Mother and Tripti Mitra who directed Gudia Ghar, for which Ganguly received honour from the West Bengal government. 

• Usha Ganguly started directing herself in the 1980s after receiving training from veterans Tripti Mitra and Mrinal Sen, pioneer of New Wave cinema in India. 

• Her energetic style and disciplined work from young casts brought a resurgence of Hindi theatre in Kolkata. She was the only second director to practice Hindi theatre in Kolkata, which was mostly Bengali-speaking. 

• Some of her significant productions include Mahabhoj in 1984, which was based on Mannu Bhandari novel, Holi by playwright Mahesh Elkunchwar in 1989, Ratnakar Matkari's Lokkatha (Folktale) in 1987 and Rudali in 1992, which was her own dramatised version of a story by Mahashweta Devi and Himmat Mai, an adaptation of Brecht's Mother Courage and Court Marital written by playwright Swadesh Deepak.

• She has also written a play called Kashinama in 2003, which was based on a story Kaane Kaun Kumati Lagi from the Kashinath Singh's classic work, 'Kashi Ka Assi' and an original play Khoj.

• Ganguly also worked on the script of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan- Ajay Devgun starrer Raincoat in 2014, which was a Hindi film based on O Henry's The Gift of the Magi. The film was directed by Rituparno Ghosh.

• She also translated and adapted plays into Hindi. Rangakarmee began its education wing in the 1990s and currently, the group regularly undertakes education activities in theatre with underprivileged people.

• The theatre group became the only Indian theatre group in 2005 to perform at the Theatre der Welt Festival in Stuttgart, Germany. 

Awards and Honours

Usha Ganguly was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Direction in 1998. The award was conferred by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, which is India's National Academy of Music, Dance & Drama.

She was also honoured as the best actress for the play Gudia Ghar by the state government of West Bengal. 

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