Sudip Sanyal : Telling stories parallely through lights and stage craft

Posted by Kaahon Desk On January 29, 2017

One of the busiest light designers in contemporary Bengali Theatre, Sudip Sanyal cut his teeth as an assistant to the legendary Tapas Sen in 2000. Since then he had worked on 50 theatre productions and 20 dance productions as a light designer, on his own, all over India and even abroad. In the course of his distinguished career he had worked with eminent personalities, right from the likes of Rudraprasad Sengupta and Shyamanand Jalan to Bratya Basu, Debesh Chattopadhyay and Kaushik Sen among several others. In 2002-03, he was selected a junior fellow by Sangeet Natak Academy which had further led to a string of awards and recognitions including the Stage Craft Award in 2015. He had expanded his field of work to include architectural lighting and light & sound shows.

Tracing the marked shifts in theatre productions in Bengal, Sudip Sanyal talks about the shifts in viewing habits of the audience in general, putting it in a socio-economic context. However he doesn’t sound very happy with the ultimate effects these changes are bringing about. Bengali theatre is becoming beautiful only in superficial terms carrying a layer of gloss over everything. Serious thinking in terms of theatre language itself is just not happening and instead there is a tendency to make things more and more opulent which is quite the opposite of how things were done by his mentor and guru Tapas Sen. Another bone of contention for Sudip is the apparent disinclination among the so-called theatre workers to do things which involve physical labour. Sudip strongly believes in learning from the scratch and feels that such reluctance is deep rooted in a sense of hierarchy which doesn’t consider physical work worthy of respect!

As for his own method of working, Sudip Sanyal is better suited to hear a reading of the script by the director than reading it himself. He feels that the former gives him an idea of the director’s approach to the play along with the narrative. He begins with his preparations after that and is always on the lookout to achieve a light design which will be in itself a subtext to the main narrative. He further clarifies his own position as a light designer instead of just theatre light designer and his eager willingness to explore other platforms.

Sanyal talks about the changes in production value in Bengali Theatre over the past couple of decades and talks about the psychological and economic factors and aspects of the change. However, he personally feels the change to be a superficial one as there is no marked shift in theatrical language and unfortunately there is a tendency only to beautify and make things glossy. He cites the example of the great Tapas Sen who could work with minimal things and produce effective result. Sudip once even planned to put all his designs in a computerized program, which could’ve reduced the error margin and the dependency on operators.

Being opulent in stage craft could be superficial as well

Talking about the idea of physical labour in theatre work, Sudip Sanyal maintains that it is very important to get involved at the grass root level and learn from scratch as he did himself. It gives one the best grasp over the work and the subject. However, even in group theatre there seem to be a major reluctance among the ‘theatre workers’ to do the heavy work. One reason can be plain and simple laziness but deep down there is an obvious vibe of elitism in Bengali theatre. Carrying and installing a light is not considered aesthetic or noble or respectable enough!

On obvious vibe of elitism in Bengali Theatre deep down

While starting to work on a new production Sudip Sanyal prefers to hear the director read out the script than reading it himself. Because this allows him to realize the director’s take on the text. Subsequent readings and rehearsals help him in further preparations. At times, it might be a while before there’s a creative breakthrough. But it is always his attempt to create a subtext with lights instead of merely illuminating the stage. Finally he considers himself a light designer first and then a theatre light designer. He’s comfortable and eager to work in other platforms too.

Script to stage – creative process of visualising theatre


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