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A story of our lived reality

Winner of five awards at META reflects on his theatre journey and odds he faced

A story of our lived reality

A scene from the award-winning play ‘Raghunath’.

Bidyut Kumar Nath

From 390, we were down to 10. Our play had been selected along with works of theatre veterans like Makarand Deshpande and Piyush Mishra, an achievement in itself. That day, my wife and I couldn’t even force a morsel down our throats. We were just so scared. We were so new to this kind of limelight. Our light operator had never worked on this big a stage. And then Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META) began flowing in for ‘Raghunath’, one by one, six in total. Gautam Saikia was felicitated for the Best Light Design and Best Director, Best Actor, Best Original Script, Best Production, Best Stage Design were bagged by me.

Our play is about Raghunath, whose daughter dies while trying to cross a flooded river to go to school. Her memories haunt him all the time. He dreams of a village where no children die because of the lack of a mere bridge. To realise this, he spreads a false rumour that he has found an ancient statue of a god in the pond behind his home, believing that it will attract the government and the media to the village and that eventually the government will build a temple in it.

This play was born out of a theatre workshop. I had told the participants to go through the newspapers and pick a story. One of them was about a girl getting washed away in the floods. Floods are a bitter reality in Assam. Governments try to help but at the grassroots level, politicians eat up all the money.

My tryst with theatre began when I was in class IV. An uncle of mine was an actor and I felt drawn to it the moment I saw him on stage. I soon got a break in theatre courtesy Prabin Saikia, Biplab Jyoti Bhuyan and Nirumoni Bhuyan. But this ended following my father’s untimely demise in 2004; I was in senior secondary then. I gave tuitions, worked at restaurants, and my mother had to work in people’s homes before she became an ASHA worker earning Rs 1,000 per month.

Many years later, senior artist Jyoti Prasad Bhuyan, who knew about my interest in theatre, asked me to act in a play. I participated in the All-Assam one-act play competition where I won a cash prize of Rs 10,000-Rs 15,000. I was back on the circuit and was now being invited by several people, famous actor-director Rajen Phukan being among them. Importantly, theatre was paying, too. Around this time, my senior colleague Manuj Saikia, a passout from National School of Drama, Delhi, told me to go join the drama school. I could not go to Delhi leaving my mother and sister behind and instead joined its Sikkim campus for a year-long course. That changed so many things. People wanted to work with me. I was taking theatre workshops.

And then came the lockdown, a testing time again. I had to work as a delivery boy for 18 months. This time, I bounced back quickly.

‘Raghunath’ was conceived in August 2022. I knew this was a different story but I had no money to do a play. I went on Facebook and asked people to fund our production. One man donated Rs 10,000, another Rs 4,000. We soon managed to collect Rs 40,000. The actors were approached, the set was made from bamboo, the story was improvised upon. We went house to house to sell tickets in Nagaon where I stay. The play was a success.

Interestingly, the play did not have a script until we decided to send it to META. A friend, filmmaker Khanjan Kishorenath, watched it, wrote the subtitles and then translated the script into English.

Despite the odds that I faced in life, I knew that theatre is what I wanted to do. The experience at META has left me richer. I have realised that all theatre is same — only some are big stories and some are small stories. The culture it emanates from sets it apart. With ‘Raghunath’, we told a story of our lived reality.

— As told to Sarika Sharma


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