At 77, Chapal Bhaduri is arguably Bengali folk theatre’s last living female impersonator, traversing and transgressing genders effortlessly and almost unthinkingly from his teenage. The youngest child of theatre artists, he was put on stage around the age of 8, but began his distinctive career in female impersonation in 1955 when he played Marjina in a production of Alibaba, and slowly attained fame as the highest paid ‘theatre actress’ by the 1960s. A decade or so later, however, Bhaduri’s preeminence as a female impersonator began to fade as women started entering the acting profession even in jatra, traditionally a male-dominated community.
Author: Brinda Bose & Rahul Sen
Brinda Bose teaches at the Centre for English Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Rahul Sen is pursuing his MPhil at the Department of English, Delhi University.