GUWAHATI, March 31 � Stage acting in Guwahati started following the advent of the yatra parties from the then Bengal in the early 1840s. Between the 1870s and 1880s, local Assamese and Bengali artistes started staging Bengali plays at the first permanent stage of Guwahati, which was located near the Ugratara Temple in the Latasil area, said noted writer Kumudeswar Hazarika.
This stage was reduced into rubbles by the 1897 Great Assam Earthquake. This stage had an open air auditorium with a concrete stage, called �pucca mancha� at that time. It is assumed even by noted writer late Sahityacharyya (an Asam Sahitya Sabha title for a master litterateur) Atul Chandra Hazarika that the first play staged by those artistes was named Ram Rajabhishek. It was enacted in the early part of the 1880s.
There are some interesting anecdotes concerning the acting of those days. The female characters were played by the male actors of tender age and during the staging of the Ram Rajabhishek, one such male actor, who was around 18-year-old and a copyist in the office of the then District Magistrate of Kamrup, played the role of Sita so femininely that a junior British officer named Agnew proposed to tie the nuptial knot with that actor, taking him for a girl.
But the director of that play, who was a nazir of Bengal origin in the office of the Kamrup District Magistrate, with much caution resulting from his official position, told the British officer that the actor was in fact a male person. This put that British officer to shame and since then he became very careful in watching such stage performances.
Assamese plays started replacing the Bengali plays since the mid-1880s. It was believed at that time that the Assamese versions of the Bengali plays would serve the purpose of staging Assamese plays.
But at the joint initiative of eminent historian Rai Bahadur Kanaklal Borooah, renowned novelist Rajani Kanta Bordoloi and a Bengali gentleman Gopal Krishna Dey, who was the first librarian of the Curzon Hall (now Nabin Bordoloi Hall) Library, Sabitri-Satyaban � the first original Assamese play of Guwahati, was written and staged. It was based on a mythological story. When that play was staged, Kanaklal Borooah played a female role.
Till the 1940s, the British officers, their Assamese and Bengali subordinates and the English ladies constituted the audience of such stage performances in Guwahati. Till Independence, there were separate sitting arrangements for the women and the children in the Uzanbazar Kumar Bhaskar Natya Mandir, Panbazar Arya Natya Mancha of the Arya Natya Samaj and at the other temporary auditoriums where yatra plays were staged, said Hazarika.