Photographer documents the struggles of Jatra’s former actors

Soumya Sankar Bose photographs the folk-theatre actors who have left the stage behind to make a living.

Jatra is a popular folk-theatre form of Bengali theatre. These four-hour long, high energy plays feature loud music, extravagant props, intense lighting and massive stages set beneath open skies. Despite the gravitas of the performances, the number of people interested in watching has significantly declined, leaving a number of actors out of work. After growing up in a family of Jatra actors, photographer Soumya Sankar Bose began documenting the lives of the thespians now struggling to make ends meet.

“I knew I had to work on this project when my uncle retired from playing traditional Jatra theatre and joined a railway factory, hoping to finally earn a living,” says Bose. “This is how I began documenting unemployed actors who were once major Jatra figures.”

Now in its fourth year, the project is almost complete. Bose launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund the creation of a photo book called Let's Sing an Old Song. “In this book, I want to present a unique selection of staged photographs which reflect the spirit of performance and pay tribute to the theatre and its people,” he adds.

The photographs will be accompanied by interviews, artists’ diary entries, scripts and old family photographs.