Moinak Ganguly, a theatre artist from Kolkata, has been part of around 50 dramas and street plays and aims to portray societal issues through art while also making people aware of the problems through the performances.
Once the story of a blind guy and a deaf girl, showcased in a short film, ‘Unsaid’, takes a roundabout from the international film festivals, it is likely to be released on OTT platforms. Moinak Ganguly, a theatre artist from Kolkata, is much excited about the film produced in his studio. With his longing to establish himself as a filmmaker, even though he knew it required time and expertise, he has at least stepped his foot forward into the giant industry.
However, this freelance theatre artist has not let go of his admiration for theatre and street plays and is still involved in multiple of them with various theatres and productions. Not very long ago, he was introduced to the art by a theatre group, Shriek of Silence, that hired him during his graduation days. While Ganguly calls the group “torchbearers” for him, he also took theatre classes to master the art.
Since 2015 till date, Ganguly has taken part in no less than 50 theatre dramas and plays but what interests him more is to depict the daily-life problems of people through the theatre. It is through the same art form he has been able to showcase the mental battles of a person who deals with their gender and sexual identity issues. While Ganguly himself is in the exploration stage of his sexual identity, he believes, there could not be any better medium to advocate the problems.
In between uncountable human minds, as he says, he does not have to struggle to search for problems for his plays. It is as simple as coming across a newspaper article about unacceptance of the queer community or killings in the name of religion that leads him to think of ways to portray them to the audience. “Recently, two deemed boys were thrashed out of a nightclub on the back that it was a ‘ladies night’. One of the two was my friend. It is disappointing to gather that people tend to choose violence even before introspecting the truth,” Ganguly says, hinting toward the sexual orientation of the friend that could align with the theme even if the appearance did not. “Such are the complications one can best express through an art form since it has a great impact on people,” he adds.
Believing theatre to be an efficient tool to spread awareness in society, Ganguly has observed the need to change the subject of the plays according to the “changed problems”. He is of the mind that it is a meaningless effort to create drama on a problem that existed 30 or 40 years back. For instance, he says, “People would once consider homosexuality to be a disease. Now, while many have accepted it is not, the sexual spectrum is surrounded by many stereotypes and prejudices. So, as the problems change, the need to depict the current scenario comes into play,” the 27-year-old says.
On the other hand, Ganguly has also been active in highlighting the developments and positive changes in society through theatre art. He talks about the recent development in the world of medical science that has been able to treat hard-to-treat cancers and states how such developments can be incorporated into the plays.
It is through these intentions that he chose not to completely rely on other production houses and theatres and started his production and lifestyle studio named Leo Studios Productions. Not only does the production work for creating dramas and short films; of which the film ‘Unsaid’ is a part too, it also hosts events and conducts competitions like poster-making on various causes. “The studio is a safe place to practise art and be self-employed through which I aim to create sustainable employment,” Ganguly says.
Witnessing the change in theatre in Kolkata
Time has called for various changes in the theatres of Kolkata, and Ganguly has witnessed the transformations. He has observed the decreasing number of theatres and their audiences in the city. Moreover, the theatres in the cultural capital of India have been reduced to intimate settings and spaces, allowing few people in it to watch the plays, as Ganguly highlights.
One of the major shortcomings faced by the theatres and the productions that exist almost everywhere else in the country is their inability to attract investors, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic and Kolkata is no longer different. Even Ganguly has been dealing with the financial crunch to run his production and mentions that, sometimes, the artists and actors have to put in their own money to produce the plays.
This could be one of the reasons prompting the theatre practitioner to opt for alternative sources of income as he is also a teacher working in the space of performing arts. Nevertheless, with the internet gaining relevance in all spaces, Ganguly is of the view that theatres must learn the medium in their day-to-day functioning to be able to cope with the vast changing scenarios. He does not fail to mention that the acceptance of technology by theatres is needed and should be promoted even if as smaller as creating online copies of the scripts.
Is there a saviour? Ganguly says, “Kolkata has a chunk of enthusiastic youth. Only if the energies are harnessed in the right direction, can we uphold various losing cultures in the city.” As a second step, Ganguly maintains, the old generation ought to trust the “new blood”.