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When Tandon Bari of Jorasanko lit up as a Theatre Stage - GetBengal story

9 October, 2023 17:18:03
When Tandon Bari of Jorasanko lit up as a Theatre Stage - GetBengal story

Tandon Bari of Jorasanko as a theatre stage

Walking down the lanes of Kolkata is like a treasure hunt which leads to age-old architectural beauties. Along the lanes of Jorasanko, still stand some of the architectural jewels, far from the hawk eyes of developers. They have still survived the test of time and greed of humanity. As Navpreet Arora, the owner of the internationally famed Walking Tour Company, Fun on Streets, said: “One morning at 5 am while walking down the by lanes of Jorasanko, I chanced upon one of the many hidden gems of Kolkata, the Tandon Bari and fell in love with it. More so, when a group of heritage enthusiasts decided to enact a play turning the heritage structure into a stage.”

The Tandon Bari lit up with the first series of Heritage X Theatre, titled “Kyunki champa ka vriksh utne hi dino mei phool deta hai, jitna tab deta thaa.” Directed by actor and architect Anubha Fatehpuria, the play was presented by Padatik and Trisys Foundation. The Tandon Bari stands on the Baranoshi Ghosh Street of North Calcutta, around 30m from the famous Jorasanko Thakurbari. Arora briefed us: “The Tandon Bari was built 94 years back and the current owner of the house is Rakesh Tandon. His grandfather Shyam Lal Khatri had built the house. At present, six people reside in the house. One of my mentors, Rajiv Soni got back to me and said that earlier this house was known as the Khatri Niwas after the “Khatri” caste. These days it is known as the Tandon Bari.”

Heritage X Theatre, presented by Padatik and Trisys Foundation

There is a group of heritage enthusiasts in Kolkata of which Navpreet Arora is a part. They love to see the hidden heritage of the city on informal walks where they do not chalk out any route, but follow their hearts and go wherever it takes them. It was one of those days while the group was walking through the by lanes of Jorasanko that they chanced upon this house. The group is led by Mudar Patherya and sometimes Navpreet Arora also gave some views on where they can go in search of hidden gems. 

Members of Padatik Theatre Group

Mudar Patherya had seen a play which was done by Padatik Theatre and directed by Anubha Fatehpuria, called “Kagaz ke Gubbare”. The beautiful façade of the house inspired him to combine heritage with theatre. Mudar contacted Anubha Fatehpuria and took her to see the place and she loved it. She thought of a play where she not only envisaged the characters speaking, but the whole play was focusing on how the house is conversing and how the house has seen the changes of time. This was the first performance of the Heritage X Theatre where they tried to showcase the hidden gems. Within the next 6 months, 6 more plays might come up as discovery of new heritage gems continue. 


Mudar Patherya, a communications consultant and social worker, likes to go on walks on the streets of North Calcutta and click pictures of such beautiful architectural structures. He told GB, “Anubha is the one who heads Padatik theatre. I collaborated with them for an event. We are now beginning the performances and we will get into our next performance by the end of October and every two months we shall be doing one performance.” No microphone was used during the performance. The resonation off the walls amplified the sound. The performance started at 5 pm to make the most of the natural light before, during and after sunset. Artificial lights were also used. “This was a daring experiment which was carried out in a remote Kolkata Lane by Padatik and Trisys foundation. The rowak of the house was used as the stage and the street used for the audience to sit in. The performance consisted of readings from Tagore, Manto and Sharad Joshi, it appeared to be a new idea, the actors used doors and windows to act through. The organisers plan to share a portion of the earnings from the sale of tickets with the homeowners, hoping they would use it to maintain the properties. 

Anubha Fatehpuria, an actress and an architect herself is also the programme director in Padatik Theatre which is in its 50th year. Anubha started acting in plays in 1995 and has been an actor with Padatik theatre since 2003. Padatik’s productions have toured extensively all over India and internationally. It has produced over 75 plays in Hindi, English and Bengali working with more than 25 directors from across the world. Major plays directed by Late Shyamanand Jalan include Evam Indrajit, Sakharam Binder, Hazar Chaurasi Ki Maa, Shakuntala, Panchi Aise Aate Hain, Uddhwasth Dharamshala, Janata Ka Shatru, Adhey Adhurey, Lahron Ke Rajhans and Madhavi. 

Anubha says, “I have been thinking of bringing together architecture and theatre for some years now; during the pandemic I did an online performance series of 8 episodes in this regard called ‘Of Spaces & Other Stories’. When Mr Patherya shared the idea of performing my recently directed play at Tandon Bari, we discussed and froze the idea of Heritage x Theatre.”

Vibha Mitra of ‘Own the Past’, was among the audience and she said: “Time stood still as those golden years were recreated. The windows, the upstairs windows used with panache. Tagore, Manto generously dipped into life and painted delicious vignettes with a very deft script by A. Fatehpuria. The Padatik players were brilliant. Such an initiative is a very important change as we are showcasing the way in which these old mansions can be reused keeping their character and façade. The idea was to create an interactive dialogue with space. The stories challenged the concept of progress and questioned if there are pretences behind the facade of being modern and progressive, a celebration of values of reinvention and preservation.”

Image Courtesy : Navpreet Arora and Facebook page of Padatik Theatre

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