Saturday, February 4

A walk down memory lane through north Kolkata’s ‘theatre para’

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On a Sunday morning, a group of 50 — including housewives, lawyers, students, young professionals, heritage enthusiasts and photographers — came together to rediscover one of north Kolkata’s oldest neighbourhoods. The walk organized by the Facebook group PuronoKolkatarGolpo (PKG) covered Gouribari and its adjoining areas, commonly known as ‘theatre para’.

The meeting point was Gouribari bus stop, from where the group walked along the bylanes of Gouribari towards the Jain temples on Badridas Temple Street. Built in 1867, the four temples are one of the major tourist attractions of Kolkata. Group administrator Swarnali Chattopadhya said, “Gouribari is a quiet neighbourhood with a rich history and heritage.”

The group visited seven theatres around Hatibagan — Bijan Theatre, Rangana, Sarkarina, Biswarupa, Rangmahal, Boys’ Own Library and Star. From the 1970s till the late 1990s, these theatres were very popular. But this once-lively neighbourhood now shows how the city’s theatre culture has faded. While most of these buildings lie abandoned, some have been replaced by malls and residential complexes.

Subrata Ghosh, who conducted the walk, said, “An important part of Bengal’s cultural heritage has been washed away with the closing down of the theatres.” For him, it was a nostalgic afternoon as he recounted how the small eateries that catered to the crowd were as popular as the theatres.

The next two stops were Vedanta Math and Noti Binodini’s house. Graphic designer Rituparna Swami said, “I was not aware of the history of the Jain temples before this walk. I got to know about the theatres too, as well as learn about this neighbourhood that is steeped in history.”

Bansdroni resident Anjali Banerjee recalled how she had visited Bijan Theatre with her husband. “These places have wonderful memories associated with them, but I’m disheartened to see what they have become,” she said.

The city has seen several heritage walks in the recent past, organised by government agencies as well as citizens’ groups. Kolkata has a rich heritage — both built as well as cultural — and these walks are a great way of inculcating a sense of pride in what we once had as well as a call to action to preserve what we still have.


Source: Times of India

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