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Alkazi Theatre Archives

A Bibliographic Listing from the Archive

Binodini Dasi’s Amar Katha/ Amar Abhinetri Jibon ( My Story and My Life as an Actress)

Book: Amar Katha/ Amar Abhinetri Jibon (My Story and My Life as an Actress)Author: Binodini Dasi Edited and translated by: Rimli Bhattacharya Published by: Kali for Women, New Delhi, 1998. “Almost all the sahebs of Lucknow city came that evening to see our play. At the point where Rogue Saheb attempts to assault Khetramoni, Torap beats him with a door he has broken down and then Nabinadhab takes Khetramoni away…The Sahebs were extremely upset at this particular scene. A commotion arose and one of the sahebs actually climbed up the stage intending to beat up Torap. We were in tears, our instructors were frightened and our manager, Dharamdas Sur all a tremble. We stopped the performance and somehow putting together our costumes and the sets, fled the scene.” [Amar Kotha, pp.68-69]. This excerpt from Binodini’s autobiography recalls her performance in Neeldarpan with the National Theatre in 1875 in Lucknow, a performance which brought drama in India under direct government scrutiny, followed by the imposition of the Dramatic Performances Act in 1876. Published in two parts, Binodini Dasi’s autobiography, Amar Katha (1912) and Amar Abhinetri Jibon (incomplete,1924/25) not only paves a detailed insight into the making of the ‘star- actress’ of modern Bengali stage, but chronicles an alternative social narrative of nineteenth century history of colonial Bengal and theatre’s role in shaping it. Binodini’s autobiography becomes an ‘experiential response’ to the metropolitan world of theatre, where her feminist interjection reopens avenues to read through the binaries of an oppressive colonial government and the newly constructed socio-political structures dominated by the bhadralok’s nationalist sentiments.Translated from Bengali to English by Rimli Bhattacharya, the autobiography consciously foregrounds Binodini’s identity as a stage actress, placing her writings within the performance context and asks the question,‘what did theatre mean to Binodini?’ The book intertwines questions of labour, gender and the stage and pushes one to read in the lines of what Tracy Davis famously stated, ‘actress as working women’.

Binodini Dasi’s Amar Katha