Kolkata was once the capital of pre-independent India and it has evinced numerous creative endeavours. It's one of the many reasons, why this city is christened as 'City of Joy' (and of course Dominique Lapierre's novel 'City of Joy' based on this city is also another reason; perhaps the main reason). What I comprehend is that the city is colourful (or joyful) because of its charismatic theatre-culture. I am a contemporary empiric when it comes to exploring the creative epicentre of any city and in Kolkata was also no exception to this bee-line following. As I visited the grand drama-clubs of Kolkata, I saw how all of them have thriving tea-stalls in the vicinity. It was such a delirious feeling to see how, in front of an esteemed theatre-hall -'Girish Mancho' – a fanatically obsessed theatre audience was talking about group-theatre at a road side tea stall. Interestingly, the great actor and dramatist Girish Ghosh, who is known as the master of modern Bengali theatre, took at least three glasses of tea (most of these theatre associated tea-stalls supply tea in glasses) before his performance.
Now to get back to my story of tea and theatre. Fervent theatre personality and actor Bijoylakshmi Barman, who has worked with great theatre personalities across the country, informed me once during one of my interactions with her about the importance of tea before any stage show. Legendary Sambu Mitra used to learn his dialogues with glass of black tea in his hand. That reminds me of the magnificent lines of the song – 'Tea & Theatre'...
...Will you have some tea
At the theatre with me?
We did it all
If you really want to enjoy theatre with tea, then metros like Kolkata & Mumbai have brilliant vistas but the beauty of the confluence of tea & theatre can only be felt when you are in the company of dedicated dramatists or drama-lovers. This is evident in drama clubs. For reasons beyond my understanding, there are always several tea-stalls near the drama clubs than compared to theatre halls. For the uninitiated, New Delhi is home to the premier institute for dramatics in the country - the National School of Drama - and it has two tea-parlours which used to sell very nice coffee as well (my last visit was in 2011 when I was working in Delhi).
Hindi movies are eating away the popularity of Hindi theatre and even more so, multiplexes, malls and modern day tea/coffee chains are becoming the norm. So now, there is a dearth of that original eccentric theatre and its adjacent tea-stalls. But that's a different story, let me end my tea & theatre story by quoting a charismatic dramatist. Noted theatre personality Faizal Alkazi claimed that he could conceptualise everything of theatre from the music to the set design and performances, only when he had a cup of tea in his hand. That is where my love for theatre began, I mean knowing his fascination for tea and me being raised in tea-fraternity, I developed a penchant for Faizal Alkazi.