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Eminent theatre artiste Usha Ganguly passes away at 75

Founder of Rangakarmee in 1976, Ganguly was known for her non-confirmist productions like Mahabhoj, Lok Katha, Court Martial, Rudaali and Holi. 

Source: Facebook

Roushni Sarkar

Eminent theatre artiste Usha Ganguly passed away at her residence in Kolkata after suffering a cardiac arrest on Thursday moning. She was 75. Ganguly is survived by her son.

One of the most iconic figures of Bengal’s political theatre, Ganguly was living all by herself in a flat in south Kolkata. She had lost her brother a few days ago and was still in shock. 

Ganguly, who founded Rangakarmee in 1976, was known for creating a platform for women in theatre, which is also primarily dominated by males. As an actor-director, Ganguly established herself as an important figure without ever compromising on her ideological stance. Mahabhoj, Lok Katha, Holi, Court Martial, Rudali, Himmat Mai, Manto aur Manto, and Kashinama are some of her most memorable productions.

She was part of the cast of Goutam Ghose's film, Paar (1984), and worked on the script of Raincoat (2004), a Hindi film directed by the late Rituparno Ghosh.

Ganguly worked as a Hindi teacher in Bhawanipore Education Society College for 37 years. In 1976, she founded her theatre group, Rangakarmee. Her non-conformist productions, which were predominantly in Hindi, dealt with a wide range of subjects, drawing inspiration from icons like Rabindrath Tagore, Henrik Ibsen and Bertolt Brecht. She was also a trained danseuse and it reflected in her stage production and choreography.

In many of her plays, the content was inspired from Sadat Hasan Manto and Mahasweta Devi’s works as well. Her productions had an universal appeal due to the exceptional blend of aesthetics and a powerful socio-political message.

Leaning heavily towards the Left, Ganguly, along with the late Shyamananda Jalan, broke through the barrier of language in continuing the legacy of traditional Bengali political theatre in Hindi.

The veteran theatre artiste was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Direction in 1998. She was also honoured by the West Bengal Government as the best actress for the play Gudia Ghar, based on Ibsen's Doll's House.

The National School of Drama (NSD) posted a message about her death on Twitter. “NSD family deeply express condolences over the sad demise of eminent Indian theatre director-actor Ms Usha Ganguly,” read the post.