Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 2 (Jan-Mar 1983) p. 5.


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The IPTA in Bengal

Malini Bhattacharya

HEN ONE even begins to talk about Bengali theatre today, one has to talk of the "theatre movement' in Bengal. That such a movement exists and that it struggles to establish the performing arts on an alternative economic basis from that of the thriving commercial theatre is entirely due to the tradition created by the IPTA in the 1940s. This movement is not confined to sporadic, amateur efforts with a restricted audience of the initiate, but has deep, far-reaching roots even in the remotest corners of the state; and however much the hundreds of small, theatrical groups may differ from each other in their specific political persuasions and their modes of experimentation, they still put up a solid common front against large private ownership in the sphere of the performing arts and the cultural values it represents. This, too, is largely a legacy of the IPTA. Yet, in certain ways, the legacy has been a difficult one, and it has left unresolved controversies within the movement itself; the decline of the people's theatre movement in the late 1940s and its fragmentation, which fed ultimately to the 'Group Theatre Movement" is but a manifestation of these difficulties. In this article, I will try to indicate how the questions raised by the IPTA and left unresolved by its dissolution in the 1950s, have continued to affect the theatre movement in Bengal.

The first bulletin of the IPTA brought out in 1943 is headed by the epigraph: "People's theatre stars the people'.1 The specific application of the tei'm 'people' is not made very clear in the bulletin. But from the work of the IPTA, one may infer that the term referred mainly to the vast masses of workers, peasants and various sections of the petty bourgeoisie whose "struggles for freedom, economic justice and a democratic culture' all over the world are found to be the predominant characte-

Journal of Arts and Ideas 5


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