Dinabandhu Mitra

Dinabandhu Mitra

Dinabandhu Mitra was a pioneering dramatist from West Bengal born 1830 at village Chouberia in Gopalnagar in the district of North 24 Parganas. His given name was Gandharva Narayan, but he changed it to Dinabandhu Mitra. A student of Hindu College, later known as Presidency College, Kolkata, he discontinued his studies to join the postal services. 

Mitra published his first and most famous play, Nildarpan ( based on the trials and tribulations of rural cultivators oppressed by colonial indigo planters)in 1860. Published pseudonymously from Dacca, it unleashed a series of similar Darpan plays in Bengali. Madhusudan Dutt took it up for translation into English immediately after its publication, at the instance of Rev. James Long who was fined Rs 1000 and subjected to a month`s simple imprisonment in 1861 for publishing the translation. It scored another historic milestone when selected for the inaugural night of Bengali public theatre on 7 December 1872.

After Independence, leftist groups under the banner of the Indian People`s Theatre Association, frequently revived Nildarpan.

Thematically, Mitra grasped reality better than his dramatist contemporaries. He comprehended life’s serious and seamy sides as well as its humorous and human dimensions. While Nildarpan portrayed the eco-political exploitation by the colonizers, Sadhabar Ekadashi revealed the degeneration of mid-century English-educated Bengali society

Nabin Tapanvini, modelled after Shakespeare`s Merry Wives of Windsor did not make a mark. Lilabati was first staged in 1872 and Kamale Kamini in 1873 also had little success, but Mitra`s farces set new heights in popularity. Biyepagla Bum, Sadhabar Ekadashi, and Jamai Bank were all popular. Girish Ghosh`s acting in the lead at the National became a cherished moment in the history of Bengali theatre. Although literary critics raise doubts about the dramatic quality of Mitra`s plays, they were successful.