Nabanna: Of Famine and Resilience: A Play

by Arjun Ghosh, Bijon Bhattacharya

  1. ISBN: 978-93-5304-0284
  2. Pages: 206 pages
  3. Date: 1 May 2018


During the relief efforts in the wake of the Bengal famine the IPTA created Nabanna—a play that tells the story of the villagers of Aminpur.

The Sammadar family is already battling extreme food shortage, starvation and high-handedness of land sharks, when a tidal wave destroys their crops, homes, hopes and everything. In the desperation to survive, they are forced to walk to Calcutta. But their hope of help from the Calcutta middle-class is soon dashed by the apathy and lack of preparation that they encounter. They return to the village and resolve to counter their fate with a new strategy.

Nabanna is a watershed in the history of the Indian stage on several counts. It marks a break from the commercial stage and the inception of an activist, amateur theatre. It transcended the limitations of the naturalistic stage to make way for a versatile décor which added pace to the episodic action. This book includes a critical introduction, which traces the context and significance of Nabanna and testimonies by important figures of the first performance of the play.


Bijon Bhattacharya (1915–78) was a noted theatre and film personality from Bengal. Nabanna, based on the Bengal famine tragedy of 1943, was and remains to be one of his most celebrated works.

Arjun Ghosh is an Associate Professor at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Delhi where he teaches courses on Indian and world theatre, performance theory and practice, authorship and copyright, and the future of writing. He was formerly a Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. His previously published works include A History of the Jana Natya Manch: Play For the People and Freedom from Profit: Eschewing Copyright in Resistance Art.

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