Khaled Choudhury was a well-known theatre personality and artist of Bengal. He also created the Stage, sets and costumes. He also worked as Music Director. He worked in both Bengali and Hindi plays in various capacities. He worked for theatre producers and directors like Sombhu Mitra, Tripti Mitra, and Shyamanand Jalan. In 2012 he was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India for his contribution to theatre.
Khaled Choudhury was born on 20 December 1919 in Karimganj, which was in undivided Assam during British India. His father’s name was Chandranath Dutta Choudhury, and mother’s, Hem Nalini. His grandmother’s brother had named him Chirakumar, but his father later changed his name to Chiraranjan Dutta Choudhury. In 1943, Khaled Chowdhury kept this new name after he had an altercation with his father which resulted in straining their relationship. Though Khaled changed name, he did not change his religion. Later, he moved to Kolkata in 1945.
His Career and Contributions to Theatre
In 1945 in Kolkata, he joined IPTA or the Indian People’s Theatre Association, which was also known as Bharatiya Gananatya Sangha. He contributed in the form of artistic talent in the fields of drawing, painting and folk as well as western music. In 1947, he joined Shahider Daak, a shadow theatre. In 1953, he joined Bohurupee Productions. Later, Khaled Choudhury had been involved primarily as Stage Director with many theatre groups.
With Bohurupee Productions he was involved in the plays Dharmaghat (1953), Rakta Karabi (1954), Swargiya Prahasan (1955), Angshidaar (1955), Daakghar (1957), Putul Khela (1958), Barbar Baanshi (1969), Kingbadanti (1970), Pagla Ghora (1971), Gandaar (1972), Jajaati (1988); which were directed by Shobhu Mita, Tripti Mitra, Amar Gangopadhyay and Kumar Roy.
With Calcutta Theatre Productions, he worked in Gotraantar (1959), and 1966 Debigarjan (1966) directed by Bijon Bhattacharya. He also worked with Mukhosh Theatre Centre Productions for plays Rajanigandhaa and Aar Hobey Na Deri, directed by Tarun Ray.
He worked with almost all theatre groups in Kolkata such as Nakshatra Productions, Theatre Unit Productions, Shishu Natya Sangha Productions, Group Theatre Productions, Nandikar Productions, Rupakar Productions, Aadakaar Productions, Pujarinir Asar Productions, Bangla Naatmancha Pratistha Samiti and many more theatre production houses.
He also worked with several Hindi plays directed by Shyamanand Jalan under the banner of Anaamika Productions. The play “Chokher Bali” by Khelaghar Productions became a renowned classic and was made into movies. After decades, in the last Hindi cinema version, it starred Aishwarya Rai and Ajay Devgan.
Research on Folk Music and Folklore
In the 1960’s Khaled Choudhury became interested with folk music and folk-lore research. In 1965, when Folk Music and Folklore Research Institute was founded, he became its secretary. A lot of folk music from eastern India was collected and subsequently donated to the Lokasanskriti o Adivasisanskriti Kendra (Centre for Folk and Adivasi Culture), Govt. of West Bengal.
His Published Works
He published many books on theatre, especially in Bengali. Some of these were, Theatere Shilpo Bhabona (Artistic Thought in Theatre), Lokoshongiter Prasangikota o Onyano Prabondho (Relevance of Folk Music and Other Essays) published by Loksanskriti o Adivasisanskriti Kendra; and Smritir Sarani (Memory Lane) published by North Calcutta Film Society, in July 2011. There are several books and articles written on him.
The awards received by Khaled Chowdhury are too numerous to be listed here. Some of them are; Sangeet Natak Academy Award (1986); D.Litt (Honoris Causa) from Rabindra Bharati University (2000); D.Litt (Honoris Causa) from Vidyasagar University (2002); Kalidas Samman from Govt of Madhya Pradesh (2005); Dinabandhu Puraskar from Pashchimbanga Natya Akademi, Govt. of W. Bengal (2005); Paschim Banga Rajya Academy Award (2008); Fellow of Sangeet Natak Academy – Academy Ratna (2008); Padma Bhushan by Govt. of India (2012).
He died in Kolkata after a prolonged illness on 30 April 2014. He was a life-long bachelor and claimed to have been married to theatre. His death was deeply mourned by millions of Indians and theatre-lovers.
Written By: Raj Kumar Hansdah