Kolkata, Apr 23: Veteran theatre personality and founder-director of Kolkatabased theatre group, Rangakarmee, Usha Ganguly breathed her last early this morning. She was 75 According to family members, Ganguly suffered a cardiac arrest.
Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee Ganguly, particularly known for her work in Hindi theatre in Kolkata in the 1970s and 1980s, founded Rangakarmee theatre group in 1976, Born in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, in a family from village Nerva in Uttar Pradesh, Usha Ganguly learnt Bharatanatyam dance and later moved to Kolkata, where she studied at Shri Shikshayatan College, Ganguly started her career as a teacher at Bhowanipur Education Society College, Calcutta, an undergraduate college affiliated with University of Calcutta, in 1970.
Also in the same year, she started acting with Sangit Kala Mandir and also started work for her first play Mitti Ki Gadi (based on Mrichchakatikam by Shudrak) (1970), where she played the role of Vasantsena. Ganguly formed a theatre group, Rangakarmee, in January 1976. Initially since was trained as a dancer, the group invited outside directors, like M.K. Anvase, who directed Mother, Tripti Mitra directed Gudi Ghar, an adaptation of Ibsen's A Doll's House, besides Rudra Prasad Sengupta and Vibhash Chakravorty, before she started directing herself, having trained under Tripti Mitra and Mrinal Sen.
She started directing in the 1980s and soon her energetic style and disciplined ensemble work with young, large casts brought a resurgence of Hindi theatre in the city. Her important productions include Mahabhoj (Great Feast) in 1984, based on Mannu Bhandari novel, Ratnakar Matkari's Lokkatha (Folktale) in 1987, Holi by playwright Mahesh Elkunchwar in 1989, and Rudali (1992), her own dramatised version of a story by Mahashweta Devi, Himmat Mai, an adaptation of Brecht's Mother Courage and notably Court Marital written by playwright Swadesh Deepak.
She wrote a play Kashinama (2003), based on a story, Kaane Kaun Kumati Lagi from the Kashinath Singh's classic work, Kashi Ka Assi and an original play Khoj. She also worked on the script of Raincoat (2004) a Hindi film based on O Henry's The Gift of the Magi, directed by Rituparno Ghosh. In the coming years, she also translated and adapts plays into Hindi.
Rangakarmee started its education wing in the 1990s, today it regularly takes its repertoire on tours across India and undertakes education extension activities in theatre with underprivileged people. In 2005, Rangkarmee was the only Indian theatre group to perform at the Theatre der Welt Festival in Stuttgart, Germany. It staged the play Rudali at "Punj Pani festival" at Lahore in 2006. The group staged its first multilingual production, Bhor about the minds of inmates of a drug rehab centre in August 2010 She continued teaching as a Hindi Lecturer at Bhowanipur Education Society College, till her retirement in 2008 and practised theatre alongside. Ganguly has also been honoured by the West Bengal Government as the best actress for the play "Gudia Ghar". (UNI)