In 1980s Calcutta, ten-year-old Ori feels a deeper and deeper resentment for his mother Garima’s life as a theatre artist as he slowly grows into adolescence. His father, who once supported his mother, becomes disconnected and bitter, while his grandmother objects to her being on stage.

Even as the discontent within the home grows, the newly elected Communist Party begins to influence people’s private lives and strongly registers its protest against the “bourgeois indulgence” of theatre. Garima struggles even as the theatres begin to close, and Ori is involved in a series of events that will eventually prove fatal.

Saikat Majumdar’s novel The Firebird has been praised for bringing alive the heyday of the theatre circuit in 1980s Calcutta, as well the rise of the political forces that permanently marked it. The stigma surrounding the participation of a middle-class “respectable” married Bengali woman being involved in stage performance is also at the heart of the novel.

“Majumdar describes beautifully the life and times of these playhouses – the lights, makeshift stages, greenrooms, elaborate coiffeurs, naked yellow bulbs, beads of sweat, repressed anger, disappointments and the desperation to succeed,” writes Prerna Raturi in a review in DNA.

“Every page left me bruised, such is the sad business of Ori’s emotional world,” writes Sumana Roy in her Mint Lounge review of the novel.

Published in 2015