The Father of Bengali Theatre, Girish Chandra Ghosh, was born on February 28, 1844, in Bagbazar, North Kolkata. He used to study in Hare School and had a penchant for theatre from an extremely early age. In his boyhood, he used to participate in Bagbazar Amateur Theatre, a form of jatra, the Bengali folk theatre.
Girish Chandra Ghosh had an enchanting career at the Bagbazar Amateur Theatre. Along with him, another stalwart of Bengali theatre, Ardhendu Sekhar Mustafi, was also a part of this team. Together, they had acted in ‘Shodhobar Ekadashi’, by famous playwright Dinabandhu Mitra. Girish Ghosh played the part of Nimchand in the play, which gained immense popularity among the audience. Besides, he had also composed the music for the play ‘Sarmishtha’ by Michael Madhusudan Dutta in 1867. He also played the role of Lalit in the play Lilabati in 1871. He was still a part of the Bagbazar Amateur Theatre when it was renamed as the National Theatre in the same year. However, he left this theatre and formed the Great National Theatre in 1873. He also had brief stints as Manager at Minerva Theatre and at Star Theatre during his career.
Dramatization of Popular Literary Pieces
It was not long before it became quite difficult for Girish Ghosh to run the newly formed Great National Theatre. So, he rejoined the National Theatre and dramatized a number of literary pieces, including Banking Chandra Chatterjee’s ‘Mrinalini’, Michael Madhusudan Dutta’s ‘Meghnadbadh Kabya’, and others. He was also engaged in dramatizing some of the most well known pieces of Bengali literature, including Bishabriksha and Kapalkundala by Bankim Chandra and others.
Throughout his career, Girish Chandra Ghosh experimented with different forms of theatre. In 1877, he staged his first original work, ‘Agamani’ or Advent. He tried his hand in social plays, but initially failed. Then came ‘Prafulla’, probably one of his best creations. He had also struck the chord in the devotional plays and staged some of the most popular productions of the time, including ‘Dakshayajna’, ‘Dhrubacharita’, ‘Chaitanya Lila’, ‘Prahlad-Charitra’ and others. Several other plays including ‘Sirajuddaula’, ‘Jaysa-ka-taysa’, ‘Balidan’ and others were extremely successful.
Girish Ghosh’s life was bereft with tragedy. He had lost his parents at an early age and had also lost his wife, his two daughters, and son in the course of his life. Though he was an atheist, he found solace in the words of Shri Ramakrishna, the priest of the temple at Dakshineshwar. This priest encouraged him to continue his theatrical works and excel in that field.
Girish Chandra Ghosh was the person responsible for the emergence of the modern form of Bengali theatre from jatra or Bengali folk theatre. This generous soul left for his heavenly abode on February 8, 1912, leaving behind a legacy of world-class theatre.