Urotaar has taken the Kolkata streets by a theatrical storm. If you are walking on the street and suddenly see an attractive theatre happening on a busy road, you most probably have found Urotaar. If you don’t know about them already, read on.
Interest – that’s the only thing you need to be a family called Urotaar. Mainly they have earned their name by doing eye-catching theatre on the street. They provide you simple entertainment with attractive packages and if you are perceptive enough, there is always a message under the sparkling layers.
If you are a theatre enthusiast with absolutely no knowledge about theatre, Urotaar might be one of the best places to start in Kolkata. We have seen them first in action on National Street Theatre Day where they organized a Theatre Festival called “Ullash”. We have followed their work ever since and we can tell you that their door is always open to anyone who wants to do theatre and you get your chance to work immediately. Their philosophy of work welcomes everyone and creates opportunity without delay.
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Following is a short interview where we explore Urotaar’s philosophy, work environment and experiences of the people working with Sumanta Sarkar and Moupiya Banerjee.
BongRong: How did the journey of Urotaar start?
Moupiya: One of us had a script in mind. When we took that script to our respective groups, they didn’t encourage it. They said it’s very filmy – give us the script and I will work on it – these types of things we heard from them. That experience gave us the thought of forming a group. 7-8 of us formed a group then and named it Urotaar. We didn’t have the idea of doing street plays. We thought we will do stage productions like any other team. But, fund crisis and lack of knowledge regarding how stage theatre works at that point took us on the path of street theatre. With time everything got modified and here we are right now.
BongRong: Urotaar, the name itself is very interesting. Is there a philosophy behind the name or it just came to you guys?
Moupiya: No, It didn’t come to us suddenly. We were all going through a phase where everyone one of us were finding love and were exploring the hurt through sad songs and sad poems. We were all tarkata (you have to ask a bong for the meaning) in a big way and we thought we will call ourselves Tarkata. We were discussing how odd it would sound to call a theatre group Tarkata. One of us suggested the name Urotaar; it gives a message and the taar is still there.
Officially the name says ‘flying message’ but the internal meaning, or say, the origin is Tarkata.
BongRong: What have been the influencing factors of your production style?
Moupiya: A big reason behind forming Urotaar was that we ourselves have faced refusal from everywhere. There are theatres groups who make you sit down at the sideline for years and ask you to learn by watching what others are doing. We wanted to create better opportunities for every newcomer.
Not many people come to watch theatre. And another big requirement is to reach the people who don’t come to the theatre hall. For that we have to have productions that we can move with freely.
If we study about the history of 3rd theatre then we find out that it was incited by political reasons. There is a political presentation with a thought of revolution behind most of the street theatre we see in Kolkata. We totally wanted to avoid that. We do want to give a message; our priority is to entertain the crowd. So, what we do is stage theatres on the street.
But currently if you see our productions, you will find a huge difference from the earlier ones. We learned while doing theatre not by watching it.
Sumanta: We wanted to create a continuation of art involvement for the freshers. If you want to do stage theatre you do have to learn a lot of different things. In street theatre you have the scope of learning to do theatre by doing it. In stage theatre you really don’t have that scope. You have to learn the basics before you can start on stage. When we started Urotaarwe had people from different sections of the society and from different age groups. Connecting everyone in a production was very challenging and street theatre helped us to find our way.
Now we do have the opportunity of doing proscenium, but the interactions with the crowd, going to different places every now and then; we are having so much fun.
There are messages in our plays, but if you already knew that we are there for that, you will most probably walk away. But if we can entertain you and inject the message in the meantime, you will carry that message in the back of your mind. So we make our productions very colorful, we incorporate music, songs, recitation- anything and everything that entertains you.
BongRong: Tell us a bit about the first production you did.
Moupiya: Well, we formed Urotaar on 3rd April 2013 and luckily we got a call show on 7th. It was a really good experience….
Sumanta: And we performed it on 15th April.
Moupiya: Yes. It was called ‘Anti-drug’ and last year we modified that and did 10 more shows. We even performed that in a Kolkata Police Anti-Drugs campaign.
BongRong: Arpita, with the experience of one and half years of being attached to Urotaar, can you tell us what it is for you right now?
Arpita: Well…you can say this organization is a very close friend. I didn’t come here to get something out of it- I came here to do something for the society and I found love.
BongRong: Aritra, I hear that you are the newest member. Why are you here at Urotaar?
Aritra: I found out about Urotaar through Facebook. Sinjini shared this image where I saw that Urotaar is looking for script writers, lyricist, and musicians- so I wanted to know more from her. I found out that this is a platform that connects with everyone in a very special way. I came down and learned about the ongoingproject, thattheywere working on and I am doing the music for the play. The things they are doing are very intriguing to me and it inspired me in a lot of ways. I am really happy that I am here.
BongRong: So, Debarati. How has the experience of Urotaar been for you?
Debarati: Primarily, I came here for refreshment and wanted to help out. I was taking care of the PR and this script came. Honestly I have never acted…
Sumanta: Let me inform you that she actually begged us that she doesn’t want to act.
Moupiya: She said she won’t come more than one day for rehearsal and now it’s been five-six days and she is coming regularly.
Debarati: I said that because I was very sure that after seeing me for the first day they will ask me not to come anymore. Initially, I was feeling very embarrassed doing the role of a fox, but you know, they actually create the space for you. They make you feel free and encourage you to express yourself. I feel really good here at Urotaar and I love coming here regularly. I might be very late sometimes but I do wanna come. Urotaar is a very big priority for me now. Everywhere I went I felt a hierarchical presence…
Arpita: Very bossy people who tell you what to do and what not to do.
Debarati: Yeah, it’s really unacceptable after a period. Here we have open discussions and Sumantada asks us repeatedly to express our point of view. He calls out everyone and asks them if they have something to say or have some new ideas. Honestly, we don’t find anything to complain about.
Arpita: Here our opinions are valued.
Aritra: Personally I see a leader in Sumantada, not a boss.
Sumanta: And Sumantada is having his own leader- that is Moupiya.
(That provoked laughter all around)
BongRong: To create this kind of atmosphere you must have to compromise a lot with the rehearsal time. Say there is production rush. Isn’t the philosophy of your work conflicting with the interest of quality production? How do you handle that?
Sumanta: Does it conflict? Yes, it does. But today for me, Urotaar is everything. If I was married today, I would have had my wife and kids. I would have had responsibilities and I would have had to bare a lot of tantrum.
Urotaar is my family and I am happy to compromise. But yes, there are a few agendas of Urotaar that I will never compromise with. Because Urotaar is not just another group which wants to try for a few years and then get disbanded. I was in corporate sector for 8 years and I left that to do Urotaar and I don’t wanna go back.
Yes there is love but you have to feed yourself or you will have stomach-ache andafter sometime love will fly out of the ventilator. I have to make sure that money comes in before the stomach-ache and the love can be long lasting and worry free. For that I do have to compromise on a few things and I do believe my team members are also compromising on many things.
BongRong: Well Moupiya, your script demands particular things. You are not free to creatively create your play. What do you give most importance to when you sit to create a play?
Moupiya: The style of work we do, we have to engage the moving crowd around us. So we have to do something which people will stop to watch. What message we give to the crowd- whether the viewers understand or not, it’s secondary. Firstly I have to catch and hold their attention.
From there, the biggest factor is entertainment. Then comes the message we want to give and then comes my voice. We keep our productions colorful. We use masks- facepaints, colorful clothes- we have taken abundant piecesfrom tailoring shops and stitched them together to create our costumes. We have used banners or catchy sounds and we keep on experimenting with one goal in mind, we want to make our production attractive. Next, we are very loud so our voices actually reach people. And finally what message I am giving.
BongRong: The ideologies behind creating a play and making it entertaining, don’t you feel conflicts between these two?
BongRong: How do you cope with that?
Moupiya: Well, the play I am working on right now for the last 3-4 months- I can’t find out how to make it entertaining, colorful and funny right now. The ideas I am coming up with are really not delivering the message satisfactorily.
But thank god, in Urotaar, I am not the only director and script writer. Everybody writes scripts and gives direction. We have wings like short film making, handcrafts etc, and we can do all these because we have team members to take the responsibility. Together we sit down to work on every aspect of Urotaar.
We had a play called ‘Untitled One’. We sat down together and created 3 teams and 8 scenes in 3 hours and we rehearsed to perform after a week. We don’t have 1 director or 1 script writer. Everyone in Urotaar directs or writes script together. So yes, there is conflict but I don’t face crisis situations.
BongRong: Are there any new ideas you are working on currently?
Moupiya: We are currently collecting stories from our audience & performing it for them. That’s one of our upcoming projects on which we are working. We don’t want to get into the details but it’s something that has not happened in Kolkata before. We are pretty sure of that. But, we can say that for this project we are growing our associations with various artists & gathering them for something reaaaaaalllllyyy BIG.
BongRong: People who don’t know about Urotaar yet, what would you like to tell them?
Sumanta: Message? Well…I, rather we, believe everyone is cultural, everyone is political, everyone is commercial. Depending on your perspective you segregate. We do political plays, but we don’t do politically partial plays. We are religious but we don’t hurt any religious sentiments. We are working on art forms, we are an NGO but we have to be commercial.
We say everyone can join Urotaar and we say that because we believe everyone has cultural instincts. We can take that instinct and channelize it among everyone of us and create something new together. You never really know who can do what with Urotaar.
Take me for an example. Three years back I was doing a job and right now I am writing plays, working on productions and what not. I never knew I will do all these. So, I would say to everyone that it’s not necessary to join, but do come down to one of our meetings.
BongRong: It’s been a pleasure to see you guys rehearse and thank you for the opportunity to do this interview. We wish you all the luck and may you grow by leaps and bounds. Those of you who are reading this interview, click here to know more about Urotaar.
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