Fifty years since the passion of his heart was first captured by the pen, Kartik Chandra Rath still plays the lead role in the theatre stage of Odisha. He is the organizer of one of the biggest theatre festivals of the world, has the credit of over 70 plays up his sleeve and at 65 years of age, he believes this nowhere near the end. He was a professor of economics at the Netaji Subhash Memorial City College. “Not every economics professor is also a theatre artiste with passion”, he says.
The silver city of Cuttack is the basis of all his theatrical activities and it holds a special place in his heart mainly because of the varied history of theatre of Cuttack. The city being the cultural capital of the state intrigued Rath with the “Naba Natya Andolan”, which was the new wave theatre movement. He entered the world of dramatics and got absorbed in the new style of theatre being evolved. He then became an important part of starting the new trend of drama. Rath made it a one-man show by presenting plays he had scripted, directed, organized and acted in.
He remembers the start of his journey to be when he wrote a play called “Aie Desa, Aie mati” at the young age of 15. Thereon, he has never looked back. He got into the making of various drama pieces involving diverse styles and themes, ranging from individualistic topics to international issues. He gave the world of theatre in Odisha a new dimension, with his varied topics as well as the beautiful yet simplistic way of delivering the same. An exceptional example is this play of his which was based on the Bangladesh war however was portrayed by going on in the similar ways of fighting in the Mahabharata. In a similar fashion he raised on-going issues, controversial in nature but he subtly presented them with the help of puns from a historical event of importance. Another event dear to him, is the presentation of his play, for a competition “Mansara Phula”. On the set 21 trophies on the table, 17 were dedicated to his play.
Since 1968, he has been on the ever-going move of popularizing the theatre of Odisha. He made the Odiya language a part of the national plays. He and his contemporary writers focused in producing high qualitative dramas mainly for propagation of the theatre of Odisha. He has travelled across the country to cities of theatrical importance like Allahabad, Shimla and Patna for competitions and has to his recognition various awards and accolades.
Since the last 20 years, he has been organizing one of the biggest International Theatre festival in India of 21 days. It is one of its only kinds in the country with a participation of over 3500 performing artistes of all age groups. In this period over 70 dramas are staged, over 50 national classical and folk dances performed. Classical instrumental music competitions are also held.
Rath also organizes the “India Theatre Olympiad” an international theatre festival. This celebration of theatre started in the year 1993 and has evolved to be one of the finest theatre festivals in the country. Over 100 theatre artistes from all over the world participate in the festival held at Kala Vikash Kendra, Cuttack. Participants from countries like Iran, Canada, Peru, Brazil, and Russia see themselves involving in the festival with great enthusiasm.
Rath remembers the world of theatre in the 70’s where he basked in the glory of his plays, some of which used to go on for 100 days with three matinee shows per day. He says, “It was a privilege for me as at a young age of 24, my dramas would run for over 100 days in the professional theatre.” He regrets on the vanishing of the professional theatre stage which used to run like the cinema houses. Though he understands the modernity of every aspect of live, he still does not give up and his dream is to establish a village for theatre with residential facilities.
A persona of humility filled with a beautiful experience in the theatre stage, Kartik Chandra Rath is a man whom hundreds of theatre lovers look up to. A man with utmost zeal for his first love, theatre, it’s never going to be the end.
– Sanchita Dash.
Sanchita is an Interim Staff Writer at the Broken Scooter.