Text by Jasbir Chatterjee; photography by Sukhangshu Chatterjee & Amitabha Bose
Pic above: Rehearsal of Tagore’s dance drama Kach-o-Debjani, 2010
Deep within a sea of apartments in West Delhi’s Dwarka, there is a home with something unique, a stage. Yes, a full-fledged stage with curtains, spotlights, mike, and musical instruments. It has a body and a soul with a life of its own. This stage has a name too, Partho – Gouri Manch, and is an oasis in a culture-starved city like Delhi, where people seem to be more preoccupied with earning their rozi-roti (daily bread).
Here is the story of how this Manch came into existence.
In 2006, Shampa Das, a Theatre and Abritti (Bengali Poetry Recitation) artist, shifted from her rented flat in Patparganj to this house along with her husband Somnath, an NTPC employee, and her 14-year-old daughter Shamayita, a disciple of the famous Odissi artist Madhavi Mudgal. It was a dream come true. They now had a space of their own, through which they could let their unfulfilled dreams escape into the wide open sky; unlike Judith, a famous Virginia Woolf character. The stage was born later…
Then in 2009, Shampa along with a few like-minded artist friends, art connoisseurs, teachers, social activists, and retired government officials established an NGO, Dwarka Society of Performing Arts (DSPA), with the purpose of nurturing and promoting the cause of performing arts. It was their way of giving back to society what they got from it. It is unnatural, after all, to live only for yourself.
One of the challenges they faced initially was a lack of proper space for rehearsals and staging of shows and huge funds required for organizing shows in existing auditoriums in Delhi. That’s how the idea of a having a stage of her own came to her mind. With the help of Sukhangshu Chatterjee, a theater and voice-over artist, the stage finally became a reality.
Once the stage was ready, Shampa named it ‘Partho-Gouri Manch’ in honor of the famous husband-wife duo Partho and Gouri Ghosh, her mentors, well-known both nationally and internationally, as Abritti artists.
In this pic, Shampa is in the center, with her Gurus Partho and Gouri Ghosh.
Ever since its inception, this stage has given rein to hopes, dreams, and aspirations of many upcoming artists and has served as a launching pad for many emerging performers. It has also unravelled hidden talents of many who were not even aware of their existence inside their souls. Like mine, for example.
One of DSPA’s notable programs was Tagore’s dance drama Kach-o-Debjani held at CCRT Auditorium, Dwarka, on 31 March 2010, with a houseful audience. It was a workshop-oriented dance drama with recitation by Partha and Gouri Ghosh. It had a huge cast of about 100 dancers including several children, like my daughter Suroshri and niece Supratika, who had no prior training whatsoever in Rabindrik Nritya! The program was played to live music by Uttarayan, a Delhi-based top-notch Rabindra Sangeet group. The rehearsals were done in Shampa’s home on the Partho-Gouri Manch for about one month. The audience was pleasantly surprised to see such a wonderful performance from a completely unknown group of dancers and the most amazing thing was that a huge production of this nature came into existence with such a low budget. A write-up on this program appeared in Times of India on 25 April 2010. See this below, along with a few pics from the program.
Times of India article, 25 April 2010
(CCRT Auditorium Photos courtesy: Amitabha Bose)
And here are some more pics clicked by Sukhangshu Chatterjee during rehearsals of this workshop.
Here we are, watching our kids rehearsing…(Shampa in cream and pink sari, me wearing glasses)…
Shamayita (Shampa’s daughter, wearing green kameez, practising with the other children)
Shamayita helping out in rehearsals…
Somnath (Shampa’s husband) with Choreographer Aditya Mitra (right, holding a water bottle)…
Shamayita practising with Aditya Mitra (Choreographer)…
Children at the workshop…..learning & enjoying …
Partho and Gouri Ghosh (sitting in center) having a close look
The singers and musicians of reputed Delhi Rabindra sangeet group Uttarayan practising…Sanjay Sarkar is playing the Harmonium
Oh my, what a leap!
Choreographer Aditya Mitra explaining the nuances…
Partho Da, explaining a philosophy, gingerly, with a ginger!
Here I am, with Partho Da, Gouri Di and Jayita, another very gifted Abritti artist.
My daughter Suroshri (front facing, looking sideways) with other kids
Suroshri (in maroon T-shirt), Supratika (in purple T-shirt) and other kids striking a pose…
Gouri Ghosh speaking to audience, with Sukhangshu Chatterjee listening…
A couple of years ago, Shampa invited me to recite some of my poems on this stage. It was my very first performance before a live audience! Being shy and introvert by nature, I was very nervous initially, since I had never read my poems aloud before, not even to myself. But as soon as I finished reading the first line of my poem, ‘My Sweet, Lonely, Little World,’ I found myself overcome by a strange kind of a spell. My inhibitions fell beside me like a scab. I felt thrilled and completely relaxed. I was pleasantly surprised to hear myself reciting with so much joy and happiness in my voice. I received a huge ovation in the end.
Here are some pics from one of my performances here.
What I mean to say is that Partho-Gouri Manch is not an ordinary stage. It is extraordinarily special and its positive energy comes from selfless, unassuming, and truly altruistic artists like Partho and Gouri Ghosh associated with it and tireless efforts put in by so many like Shampa, Somnath, Shamayita, etc, to make it what it is today. It has a magical quality that brings out the best in every artist who performs on it and transforms the person into a divine entity.
Thank you, Shampa, for giving our world this wonderful gift and wish you all the very best in your career as an artist, a teacher, and a motivator!