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Sombhu Mitra – The King of Stage

Sombhu Mitra – The King of Stage

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Sombhu Mitra

Remembering Sombhu Mitra, a pioneer of Indian theatre, on his death anniversary which was on 19th May. Join us in honoring his visionary direction, versatile acting, and enduring impact on Indian theater. Discover the legacy of this extraordinary legend who revolutionized the art form and inspired generations of theater practitioners.

On the 19th of May 1997 in the city of Calcutta, a man died. His mortal remains perished, but he left a heritage that no fire could consume. It is a heritage of theater, poetry, and films that has the power to move us and inspire us today and in the coming days. On the solemn occasion of the death anniversary of Sombhu Mitra, which was yesterday we pay tribute to a towering figure in the world of Indian theatre.

Born on the 22nd of August, 1915, Sombhu Mitra was the sixth child of three sons and four daughters. His father Sarat Kumar Mitra was employed with the Geological Survey of India and was kept busy mostly. The children were taken care of by the mother Satadalbasini Mitra. But she left this mortal world when Sombhu Mitra was just twelve years old.

Young Sombhu was introduced to Bengali plays during his school days at Ballyguange Government High School and soon developed a profound interest in it. But it was during his college days at St. Xavier College that he started taking theater seriously. His passion for acting and storytelling led him to pursue a career in theatre against his family’s wishes.

He commenced his journey in the world of theater in 1939 at Rangamahal Theatre in Kolkata. Motivated by the leftist movement, he became a member of the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) in 1943. Being a part of the IPTA provided him with an opportunity to bring his envisioned style of theater to life. In the play “Navanna,” penned by Bijan Bhattacharya, Shambhu Mitra defied traditional theatrical norms and introduced innovative approaches to stage presentations.

In 1948, Shambhu Mitra founded his theater troupe called Bahurupee, which is widely recognized as a trailblazer in the Neo-theatrical movement of Bengal. Some of his renowned plays of Bohurupee are Char Adhyay (1951), Raja Oidipous (1964), Galileo (1980), and many more. These plays are still being performed on stage which leaves the audience awestruck.

Sombhu Mitra’s most celebrated production was “Raktakarabi” (Red Oleanders), a play written by Rabindranath Tagore. It was a visual and auditory spectacle that mesmerized audiences. With its evocative symbolism and innovative use of light and music, “Raktakarabi” became an iconic masterpiece, establishing Mitra’s reputation as a visionary director.

Apart from his directing skills, Sombhu Mitra was an accomplished actor who captivated audiences with his mesmerizing performances. His portrayal of diverse characters, such as Surya Sen in “Surya Sen,” Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice,” and Rajkumar in “King Lear,” showcased his versatility and depth as an actor.

An illustration of his dedication and attention to detail must be highlighted here. At some point in 1981, during one of his performances, he directed his team to distribute Vicks inhalers to the entire audience to prevent any coughing disruptions throughout the performance.

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Sombhu Mitra’s contributions to Indian theatre were recognized with numerous awards and honors. He received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, the Padma Shri (one of India’s highest civilian honors), and the Padma Bhushan for his exceptional contributions to the performing arts.

Sombhu Mitra’s influence extended beyond his lifetime. His innovative techniques, emphasis on naturalistic acting, and exploration of social themes laid the foundation for modern Indian theatre. Many renowned actors and directors, including Satyajit Ray, were profoundly inspired by his vision and carried forward his legacy.

Sombhu Mitra’s artistic genius and unwavering dedication to utilizing theater as a catalyst for social transformation serve as a timeless source of inspiration for generations of theater practitioners. Through his innovative productions and pioneering mindset, he brought about a revolution in Indian theater, leaving an enduring impact on its rich history. As we observed his death anniversary yesaterday, let us honor Sombhu Mitra as an extraordinary legend whose contributions will be eternally cherished.

Note: Some portions of this article are inspired by works of Satyajit Ray. 

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