GIRISH CHANDRA GHOSH – THE FATHER OF BENGALI THEATER
Girish Chandra Ghosh, a Bengali playwright, poet, novelist, musician, hair designer, theater director and actor is aptly referred to as the ” Father of Bengali Theater”. A versatile genius, Girish Ghosh was born on 28th February, 1844, as the eighth child of his family. An aethist and a rebel who led a bohemian life, he was the greatest dramatist of his time, who was largely responsible for the golden age of Bengali Theater.
He was an actor of repute as well as a mentor who guided several actors and actresses, including the brilliant performer, Binodini Dasi. He co-founded the Great National Theatre, the first Bengali professional theatre company, in 1872. Girish Ghosh penned several plays and acted and directed many more. Later in his life, he came in contact with Shri Ramakrishna and was converted into one of his foremost devotees. It was Girish Ghosh, who first started preaching publicly, that Shri Ramakrishna was an Avatar.
HOW THEATER HAPPENED TO GIRISH GHOSH? :
After leaving school, Girish Ghosh acquired an apprenticeship with a British Company, in book keeping. It was almost in the same time that he became acquainted with Iswar Chandra Gupta and began writing plays, songs and poetry. He began his acting career at the Bagbazar Amateur Theatre, where he had an enchanting career.
Along with him, another stalwart of Bengali theatre, Sri Ardhendu Sekhar Mustafi was also a part of the team. Apart from acting, he also composed the music for the play ” Sharmishtha” by Michael Madhusudan Dutta. He was still a part of the Bagbazar Amateur Theatre, when it was renamed as the National Theatre. However, he left this theatre and formed the Great National Theatre in 1873.
THE LEGENDARY DRAMATIST AND A VERSATILE GENIUS
Girish Chandra Ghosh was largely instrumental in uplifting Bengali theatre from its ” Yatra ” form, to a more meaningful form of spreading social awareness. After forming the Great National Theatre, he staged his first play ” Agomoni” in 1877. Most of his works had some salient features that reflected his passionate patriotism for his country and his stand against Imperialism in its every form. He took ” Neeldarpan ” ( the famous play of Dinabandhu Mitra, dealing with the tyranny of the British Indigo planters over rural Bengali farm labourers ) on tour, giving performance in the North Indian cities of Delhi and Lucknow. Later, he also worked in Minerva Theatre and became a manager in Star Theater.
The maiden show of Star Theater was Dakshayagna, with Binodini Dasi and Girish Ghosh in leading roles. One of his most lauded plays was ” Chaitanya Leela “, which was staged at Star Theater, with Binodini Dasi playing the role of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He acted in a variety of roles and his performance in the dual roles of Ramchandra and Meghnaad in ” Meghnaad bodh kabyo” was applauded by one and all. He also founded a dance school to train prostitutes for the stage. For the convenience of actors, he modified the blank verse of Madhusudan Dutta into a form named after him as Girish chhanda. He wrote nearly 80plays on religious, historical and social themes. Abhimanyuvadh, Sitaharan, Sirajuddaula, Kala pahad, Chhatrapati Shivaji are to name a few. He also translated Shakespeare’s Macbeth into Bengali in 1893.
Several personal tragedies and a rebellious attitude had turned Girish Ghosh to a staunch atheist and he got involved in several immoral activities. His life changed once and for all, when he came in contact with Shri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, the 19th century Bengali saint. The legendary dramatist and a notorious libertine, Girish Chandra Ghosh eventually became one of the closest disciples of Shri Ramakrishna and became a firm believer in God!
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