SOAS London showcases Bengal heritage on a global platform

KOLKATA: SOAS has the tradition of offering language courses in degree level, is home to Bishwa Bangla scholarship and the South Asia Institute is actively showcasing Bengal’s distinctive cultural heritage. The Artistic Director, Dr Sanjukta Ghosh hosts a new vernacular forum SANGLAAP – a congregation of friends, members and public supporters of events that bring different language speaking communities together. It brings visiting writers, poets, singers, dancers and others to the campus.

Inspired by the versatility of the scientist and writer Sukumar Ray (1887-1923), a pioneer in the world of printing, and his novelette Ha-Ja-Ba-Ra-La, this forum in the spirit of Ray’s ‘Monday Club’ promotes creativity and constructive critical thinking. Sanjukta says: Ray’s club of free will encouraged the intellectual to dismantle stereotypes, create new messy categories, play with ideas that are free-flowing and lack prejudice.

Celebrating Pausha/ December with a twist of folk culture, the SOAS South Asia Institute presents in collaboration with Radha Raman Society, a highly popular Bengali opera (Jatra Pala/ ancient rural theatre of Bengal) called Beder Meye Jusna (the Prince and the Snake Charmer’s Daughter) that is adapted and narrated in English on 7th December in the prestigious Brunei Gallery. Sanjukta said: Beder Meye Jusna as a jatra story continues to inspire generations as a cultural reserve, representing a continuum in class conflict. Remade in films, theatre, television soap operas, the script is a source of household entertainment since the days of undivided Bengal. This performance sees the original adapted and injected with modern and contemporary crises of modernity, and directed by Ahmed Kaysher and Vidushi Chandra Chakraborty.

The recreated Jatra is set with live folk music and dazzling dance in a stunning theatrical setting, combined with acting, singing and recital of poetry. Ahmed Kaysher, playing the boyati (storyteller) said: This form of musical theatre from ancient Bengal plays an important part in rituals, music, folklife and heritage in Bengali culture. The audience is lifted to a boorish yard under a Banyan tree in rural Bengal, where these special story-based musicals are traditionally performed.

Produced by RadhaRaman Society, it features acclaimed dancer and actor Sonia Sultana as the daughter of snake charmer, folk dancer Sohel Ahmed as the prince, Kazi Nazrul Islam as the king, award-winning singer Jessy Barua as the female singer, Amalendu Podder on the music arrangement, Piyas Barua on Tabla and Amar Baidya on supporting role and many others on different characters.

The Bengali Jatra Pala is presented before eminent country diplomats such as High Commissioner for Bangladesh to UK, Ireland and Liberia Saida Muna Tasneem and Anwar Chowdhury a top British diplomat, the governor of Cayman Island.

A special tribute to Nabaneeta Deb Sen has been organised on 8th December, where modern poetry is read by visiting scholar Prof Manjubhash Mitra (Presidency University/Rabindra Bharati/Netaji Open University). THE GRONTHEE, an award-winning literary forum serving the cause of world literature for 28 years, known for the Gronthee Little-mag joins the voices of South Asian, Latin American, African and European writers. Sanjukta said: The team will bring their modern poetry writing in Bengali and English works to a fantastic literary evening of remembrance.


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Updated: December 3, 2019 — 11:01 am

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