Kankan Das is one of the most prominent names in Chittagong's theatre arena. In a career spanning 25 years, she has given innumerable memorable performances in some of the biggest plays to be produced from the port city. Aside from that, she is also a cornerstone of Proma Abritti Sangsad, a leading recitation group in Chittagong.
In a recent conversation, the thespian shared various aspects of her works and the cultural scenario of Chittagong.
Tell us about your journey through the realm of theatre and elocution.
Kankan: I joined Protibhas Natya Sangsad in 1989, and shortly after, associated myself with recitation group Proma Abritti Sangsad. I've been with them for quite some time now, and I also work with other theatre troupes and cultural groups, including Arindam Natya Sampraday, Uttaradhikar, Nandonik, and also in some joint productions with India, Pakistan and Thailand that we've staged at home and abroad.
As an elocutionist, aside from performing with Proma, I have directed a number of their productions. One of the more notable ones is Jasimuddin's “Sujon Badia'r Ghat”.
What is the theatre scenario like in Chittagong?
Kankan: We have some serious connoisseurs of theatre here in Chittagong, who forms our regular audience. But to be honest, we haven't been able to draw the layman. I feel that the people here are yet to feel the 'hunger' of watching theatre. There is a gap that we aren't able to bridge. Most people that come to see our plays are our personal invitees.
Theatre is often not given its due in the country, despite the hard work of the artistes. Does this bother you?
Kankan: I think we, theatre artistes, are sort of okay with the fact that we will not be in the limelight, nor do we want it too much. I never try to balance what I've achieved and what I've given to theatre. The love and respect I get from my troupe members, and the appreciation and critique I get from discerning audiences is good enough for me.
Tell us about the recitation scenario of the port city.
Kankan: I think there's a lot of activity on this front. If I speak about my group, Proma has already done a production of “Shob Kichu Noshto'der Odhikare Jabe”; we've commemorated Shamsur Rahman, and Humayun Azad, within this month alone. Not just that, elocutionists are always voicing their opinion about any social cause or incidents, and taking to the streets – in protest and in solidarity.
What is keeping you occupied these days?
Kankan: Right now, I'm working on a new play with Arindam, and another with the Chittagong unit of the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. Apart from that, a number of plays that I'm part of are being staged regularly, so that keeps me busy (smiles).
Your dreams of Chittagong's cultural arena …
Kankan: There are so many dreams, but they are far-fetched because we have shortcomings too. But we will have to work to overcome those. In the end, the dream is to touch people's hearts with our work, and hope that they can touch ours. There are infrastructural and logistical obstacles of course, and if we can overcome that, I strongly believe we can take the cultural scenario of Chittagong far ahead.