Home > Calcutta (Kolkata), General, Kolkata Museum > Theatre Museum, Salt Lake, Kolkata

Theatre Museum, Salt Lake, Kolkata

Theatre Museum

Salt Lake, Kolkata

Recently Kolkata witnessed an opening of a large number of theme based museums. Included among them is Ami Kolkata, a museum dedicated to the city itself and Reserve bank of India (RBI) Museum.

Theatre Museum 14

Portion of the modern theatre gallery, Theatre Museum, Kolkata

But the city has never been new to theme based museums. Birla Industrial & Technology Museum, Nehru Children Museum, Kolkata Police Museum, Postal Museum, Boat Museum, etc are integral part of Kolkata’s heritage.

Theatre Museum 1

Theatre Museum, Kolkata, an initiative of Natya Shodh Sansthan

The latest addition in the list of theme based museums in Kolkata is the Theatre Museum (officially known as the Natya Shodh Sansthan Theatre Museum) housed at  Salt Lake, sector II.

Theatre Museum 2

A section of the Sanskrit gallery, Theatre Museum, Kolkata

The Theatre Museum was inaugurated on 25 August by ex president of India and Bharatratna Pranab Mukherjee. It is an initiative of Natya Sodh Sansthan, an archive of theatre related information.

Theatre Museum 3

A diorama of Sakuntala, Sanskrit Theatre Gallery, Theatre Museum, Kolkata

Natya Sodh Sansthan was founded in 1981 and functions as a resource and research centre for theatre related scholars and academicians. It is also a source of valuable resource for theatre practitioner.

The Natya Sodh Sansthan archive includes material in the form of photographs, audio and video cds, newspaper and magazine clippings.

Also included are original manuscripts, letters, rare books, old tickets, memorabilia and posters.

The archive also has a rich collection of masks, costumes, makeup kits and ornaments along with scale models of different production sets.

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A display of Kuttampalam Theatre, Sanskrit Gallery, Theatre Museum, Kolkata

Sadly the archive was only accessible to researcher. It was only recently the Natya Sodh Sansthan authorities decided to put up a fraction of their collection for public display, complete with detailed documentation, as in a museum.

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Folk Dance Display, Yakshagana, Bayalata and Kathakali, Folk Gallery, Theatre Museum, Kolkata

The museum an imitative of Natya Shodh Sansthan was put up with the assistance from the Ministry of Culture, Government of India under the Museum Grant Scheme.

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A collection of puppets, Folk Gallery, Theatre Museum, Kolkata

Thus the Natya Shodh Sansthan Theatre Museum (popularly known as Theatre Museum) was conceived and in the process allowing the general public to get access into the amazing world of theatre evolution.

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Ornaments of Ram and Sita, Folk Gallery, Theatre Museum

The museum is located in Natya Bhavan, office of the Natya Shodh Sansthan, at EE 8, Salt Lake (Sector II). The museum is located in the ground and the third floor. The museum houses three galleries:

  1. Sanskrit Theatre
  2. Folk Theatre
  3. Modern Theatre

The Sankskrit gallery is located on the ground floor and extends into a mezzanine section. It is centred around a statue of Sutradhara.

The Sutradhara is integral part of Sanskrit theatre. He is a combination of playwright and director. He is the one who introduces the characters with narrations and songs and even enters into conversation with them. No wonder he is the prime attraction to the spectators of a Sanskrit theatre stage. Next to the Sutradhara statue is a diorama depicting the Tapovan with Sakuntala and her sakhis in Kanwa Muni’s ashram.

The Sanskrit gallery focuses on Sanskrit plays translated and performed in several Indian languages like Kanada, Manipuri, Hindi, Chattisgarh, Marathi, Bengali and also in Sanskrit.

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Musical Instruments and costumes, Modern Gallery, Theatre Museum

A model of Bharata’s Natya Mandap, a four headed mask of Bramha, musical instruments, weapons and models of Bharata and Sakuntala in proper costume are some of the prominent displays.

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Backdrop of Sajahan, Modern Gallery, Theatre Museum

Display boards with detail write up and elaborate photos provide information on south Indian Sanskrit theatres like Kutampalam (or Kuttambalam) and Kudiyattam.

The ground floor contains a single panel of Folk Gallery with information of folk dances like Yakshagana, Bayalata and Kathakali.

Rest of the Folk Gallery along with the Modern Gallery is housed in the fourth floor.

Although lift is available it is advisable to take the  stairs as the walls along the stairs are lined with vintage theatre posters. Visitors at the fourth floor are greeted with a massive Rajasthani Pabuji ki Padh.

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A panel of Banbibir Pala, Folk Gallery, Theatre Museum

At the entry of the fourth floor there is a small display of backdrops of some well known 19th century theatre production along with old theatre posters.

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Chhau Mask, Folk Gallery, Theatre Museum

The Folk Theatre Gallery displays artifacts, write ups and  photos of several folk arts from across India like Ramlila, Raslila, Nautanki, Jatra, Chhau, Gambhira, Banbibir Pala and many more.

One of the most sought after exhibit in the folk art gallery is a diorama of abduction of Sita by Ravana along with the attack of Jatayu. The wheel of Ravana’s chariot spins, giving it a more life like appearance.

Among the notable exhibits are an amazing collection of puppets ranging from Rajasthan to Indonesia. Ornaments used by Ram and Sita during Ramlila.

Musical instruments and folk theatre costumes along with the tiger costume of Banbibir pala. The section also has a huge collection of Chhau Mask. (Also see: My blog on Chhau Mask)

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A diorama of Rabindranath Tagore’s Bisarjan

The Modern Theatre Gallery depicts a pan India picture of modern theatre practices all over India and even includes a section on Hindi Theatres in Kolkata.

At the centre of the gallery is a show case displaying several original manuscripts along with the two rare books of German Theatre (1811) and London Theatre (1816).

This section also as a diorama of Rabindranath Tagore’s Bisarjan. An interesting exhibit includes the costume and makeup kit of a mime artist. Vintage copies of few rare theatre magazine like the Saurabh, Natya Mandr, Nach Ghar are also on display.

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Mime costume, set backdrops and other exhibit at the Modern Gallery, Theatre Museum

Natya Shodh Sansthan has plans of further extension of the Theatre Museum. Also several audio visual displays are on the pipe line in near future.

Theatre Museum Facts:

Location: EE 2, Salt Lake, Kolkata 91 (google map location)
Timing: 11 am – 5 pm
Ticket: Rs 20
Photography Restricted

Special Thanks:

  • Gopi De Sarkar, freelance journalist and fellow heritage enthusiast who played an integral part in designing the Theatre Museum
  • Madhuchhanda Chatterjee, curator of the Theatre Museum
  • Sharmila Maitra, a research scholar who took me around the Theatre Museum

 

  1. September 19, 2019 at 12:13 PM

    Thank you for writing such a great post. The way you express things in content is just mindblowing. I am looking forward to reading more of your content. I hope you have a beautiful day.

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    • October 24, 2019 at 8:43 AM

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  3. Satyabrata Guha
    October 20, 2019 at 1:10 AM

    Thanks for your vivid presentation. This has been an enduring dream of many of our stalwarts starting from Natyacharyya Sisir Bhaduri to Sambhu Mitra to even Rudra Prasad Sengupta (he is still alive and may have been associated with the project). Wish to visit it someday. Finally two queries. a) Why are the two intervening floors left vacant? and b) how could you manage to take (thankfully) so many snaps if photography is restricted inside it!

    • October 24, 2019 at 8:46 AM

      Thanks Satyabrata da. Regarding your queries:
      a) The museum is housed in the office of Natya Sodh Sansthan, the remaining two floors houses the office and archive of Natya Sodh Sansthan
      b) I was invite by the museum authorities

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