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The first Bengali Cabaret Dancer Frozen in Time
Oh! Calcutta - Titbits
3958    Dibyendu Banerjee    30/06/2019

‘Oh! Calcutta’ is a controversial revue, a light theatrical entertainment consisting of a series of short sketches, songs, and dances that shocked the world with its on-stage nudity, but has nothing to do with the city of Calcutta.

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‘Oh! Calcutta’, created by British drama critic Kenneth Tynan, is a long-running avant-garde theatrical revue, consisting of various sketches on sex-related topics, debuted in Off-Broadway in 1969. It ran in London for over 2,400 performances and in New York for over 1,600 shows. The title of the show is said to be coined from a famous painting by Clovis Trouille, titled ‘O quel cul t’as!’, which is a pun in the French phrase, meaning, ‘Oh, what a cute ass you have’. The painting, depicting the tattooed buttocks of a well-endowed young woman, seems to be an appropriate inspiration for a production that was full of ample nudity.

oh calcutta

The entire performance of the show, divided into two major acts, contains around 14 small segments, all dealing with sex and most of the sketches featured the cast naked. The show begins, as the dancing actors, five men and five women, appear on the stage, each wearing a white robe bathed in a different color spotlight, and then remove their robes to perform with the opening song fully in the nude. The famous playwright, Samuel Beckett, wrote the prologue of the controversial theatrical and there is a small segment towards the end called ‘Four in a Hand’, initially written by John Lennon, which shows a newcomer to a men's club is forced to partake in a masturbation game, but he cannot seem to think of anything to masturbate to.

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Among others, it includes a short play by Joe Orton, which is actually quite funny, and there is a ballet sequence, performed by two naked dancers, a man and a woman, which is incredibly beautiful to watch .It has another small segment called Jack and Jill, where Jack was shown in a coma, after being raped by Jill.

oh calcutta
oh calcutta
oh calcutta

‘Oh! Calcutta’ was the first stage show in Britain with nudity on stage and it sparked considerable controversy, not only because of its nudity, both male and female, but also because of its subject. Many considered the onstage nudity as disgusting and shameful, as they felt that nudity leaves nothing to the imagination. However, many opined that the show was not only hilarious but also quite meaningful.

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It created history as one of the longest-running productions ever on Broadway, after the famous shows like ‘Chicago’, ‘A Chorus Line’ and ‘The Lion King’.

oh calcutta
Oh Calcutta! was a newspaper editor’s dream
oh calcutta

The DVD version of the production, released in 1972, was a special performance staged and recorded in 1971.

The first Bengali Cabaret Dancer Frozen in Time
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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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Sri Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
The world is needed a mixture of truth and make-believe. Discard the make-believe and take the truth.
Sri Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
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