Jatra Pala- Bengali Folk Theatre
The History of Bengali Folk Theatre-Jatra Pala
Jatra means journey in actual. In Bengal Jatra term is known as a kind of folk theatre. Basically the Jatras are based on ancient epics and current socio-politics. The time it actually takes round about 4 hour with a combination of dialogues and music with dancing. In one word this is a musical drama. Songs, dialogues and dances are the main attraction of the Jatra as well as the topic on which the Jatra is based upon.
The stage is the main part of any Jatra which is normally open in all sides. Normally the stage remains almost without any furniture. The height of the stage is two feet high and 16 feet wide square area. It is also called as Asar. Adjoining the Asar there is a platform six inches lower than the main platform which is set up for the musicians who play a crucial role in the act from background. The musicians sit on the platform in one side the drummers, guitarists and other players with bells etc. On the other side of the platform mainly the flutists, harmonium player etc. sits.
Huge bulbs are placed using fasteners at four corners of the stage to focus the main stage. There are some more colorful lights placed for coloring the Asar when the hero-heroine will sing and dance. These lightings are also used when there is a battle going on. The spectators are divided by a bamboo barricade. One side is reserved for women and the other side is reserved for men spectators.
The drama is casted mainly by male members, they even play the role of a female too. But now there is no bar and female members are also acting in these dramas from 19th century. The players often deliver dialogues in thunder voice and an improvised way. They laugh, they cry, they sing, they fight, they do all on the main stage. Now famous Bengali Actors and Actress also perform in these Jatra Pala on contract basis in their leisure time. Now the Jatra has modified and became a musical concert participated by mainly celebrities of Bengal Cinema.
The season of Jatra starts from September actually Durga Puja is the starting point of Jatras and ends when the monsoons are just about to come. The whole troupe travel to rural places mainly and perform their play. These troupes are booked in advance by the organizing committee and then announcements are done day and night on a rickshaw through microphone in different style. This season is quite happening and colorful the rural Bengal.
The Jatra is believed to have started in the 16th century at the time of Bhakti movement by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. At that time devotees use to preach the Krishna Naama through the combination of singing and dialogue a kind of Kirtana. After Chaitanya Mahaprabhu his followers like Rupa Goswami wrote dramatic plays based on Sri Krishna's divine play. Besides that plays based on epic like Mahabharata, Ramayana and Shiva Purana are also being played and became extremely popular and easily understandable by the mass. After this some Bhakti cult also being played and became quite popular like Behula Lakhhindar, Manasa serpents, Chandi mangal etc.
During the time of Independence in 20th century the Jatras are widely used as a media to invoke mass against British. These kinds of Jatras are known as Swadeshi Jatra. During the World War II Indian Peoples Theatre Association staged protest against German invasion to Russia in support of communist. Then Shambhu Mitra and Utpal Dutta continued this tradition through Bohurupee Company.
The Jatra Pala in Bengal lasts for four long hours with full action packed dialogue. Some six to seven songs are also performed in the play. These kinds of songs are known as Jatra Gaan.