‘Omitted due to insignificance’: the significance of autobiography in archiving colonial theatre histories: the case of Nati Binodini
By Dr Priyanka Basu
Nati Binodini (1863-1941), popularly referred to as the ‘Flower of the Native Stage’ and ‘Moon of the Star Theatre’, was a nineteenth century Bengali theatre actress who came under the tutelage of the renowned dramatist/actor, Girishchandra Ghosh (1844-1912). As a female icon of the colonial Bengali stage, Binodini remains embedded in the cultural memory of Bengal as is evident from the number of plays and films that have been produced on her life. However, little attention has been paid to her autobiography which offers key insight into the conditions of contemporary theatre as well as the marginal existence of women actresses. Even lesser attention has been paid to her poetic works thus underlining the questions of canonization in Bengali literary histories and the role of women therein. ‘Omitted due to insignificance’ is a phrase borrowed from Girish Ghosh’s commentary on Binodini’s autobiography which he edited in order to make it ‘acceptable’ to readers. His commentary also raises questions about what constitutes a structured autobiography and the need for facts over ‘poetic digression’. In reading Binodini’s autobiography (in dialogue with this commentary) I take into account this key idea of ‘omission’ and try to understand: (i) the significance of autobiographies as written documentations of colonial performance histories, and (ii) the authoritative hands that occlude women’s voices in theatre archives.
Dr Priyanka Basu has finished her PhD from the Department of South Asia in SOAS and currently works at the Asian & African Collection at the British Library. Her research looks at the cultural politics of contemporary Bengali Kobigaan in West Bengal and Bangladesh, and her further research interests include performance and film histories, gender, and Dance Studies.
BENGAL HISTORY WEEK / 8-16 OCTOBER 2016
Brick Lane Circle’s is organising its Seventh Annual Bengal History Week during 8-16 October 2016, which aims to help generate greater levels of interest on the learning of the history of Bengal.
For further details or to book a place on any of the events please contact: 07914119282, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.bricklanecircle.org