Tollygunge Club celebrates its illustrious legacy by revisiting Bengal's glorious past
Did you know when Tipu Sultan’s eleventh son was arrested and brought in Kolkata after Battle of Mysore, he was kept in Rasa Road? Do you know where the house of Prince Ghulam Mohammad Anwar Shah was where all the lavish mujras were held? The present-day address of the elite Tollygunge Club was the location for all these historic events and more.
To celebrate the iconic club’s 125th year (that was in 2020), Subha Pal, an old associate of the club and an active thespian and culturist, intricately traced down the history and legacy of the prestigious club intertwined with the British rule and Renaissance period through an audiovisual extravaganza titled Nostalgia 2 — Raj to Renaissance.
“The Tolly Club turned 125 years old last years, but the celebrations had to be put on hold due to the ensuing pandemic and lockdown. I was thinking of how to connect the illustrious history of the club with the history of Bengal and what better way to connect that than revisit the four centuries of Bengal culminating in the culturally rich Renaissance,” explains the enthusiastic Subha after the hour and a half long extravaganza held at the Main Lawn of the club, last Saturday.
The event conceived and researched and scripted by Subha, was directed by thespian and actor Dolly Basu and coordinated by Maitrayee Ray. It saw artistes from all spheres of the city’s culture scape including actors, singers, dancers and elocutionists. Among the known faces one could spot Ashok Viswanathan, Biplab Das Gupta, Biswajit Chakraborty, Riddhi Bandyopadhyay, Rohini Raychaudhuri Keshav Roy Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee and Neelay Sengupta.
The event interspersed with the dramatisation of historic events, poetry recitations, songs and dance, showed a financially stable Bengal go through a rich cultural evolution led by the likes of Madhu Sudan Dutta, Vidyasagar, ram Mohan ray, Debndranath Tagore and ultimately Rabindranath Tagore. A moving session of upasana or prayer was conducted on-stage by a young Debendranath Tagore (portrayed by Debashish Raychaudhuri) at Brahmo Samaj, where the Brahmo sangeet ‘Deho Gyan Dibyo Gyan’, originally composed by Debendranath, was sung by Rohini Raychaudhuri and Debashish Raychaudhuri.
“There was so much about Tolly Club’s history that we didn’t know, though we’ve lived in Kolkata for years. It was such a colourful show and we loved the performances,” says Matisha Chitlangia, who was present with her toddler. Just as the decadent Babu culture was shown through nautch girl culture, the audience also witnessed how authors, poets and social reformers brought about changes that paved the way for a modern enlightened Bengal.
There were acts showing Lord Clive visiting Naba Krishna Deb’s Durga Puja in Kolkata besides protest marches resonating with Vande Mataram during the Bengal Partition movement in 1905. To make the event more interesting, colourful events from the pages of history including celebrations of Willian Hicki’s wedding, mujras (nautch) at Prince Ghulam Mohammad Anwar Shah’s residence, and Doljatra celebrations in Laaldighi by the family of Sabarna Roy Choudhuri were also shown.
“It was a night to remember! We loved all of the performances,” remarked Trina Nandi, another audience member. Actor Biswajit Chakraborty played Naba Krishna Deb, Ashok Viswanathan played Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Biplab Dasgupta played Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Neelay Sengupta represented Bhakti cult movement and Keshav Roy played Mangal Pandey.