Samik Bandyopadhyay (Bengali: শমীক বন্দ্যোপাধ্যায়; born 1940) is a Kolkata-based critic of Indian art, theatre and film.
His father Sunit Kumar Banerjee did his Ph.D. on Elizabethan lyrics under Sir H. J. C. Grierson, the famous discoverer of the metaphysical poets, at University of Edinburgh in the 1930s, and subsequently became a professor of English literature. If his scholarship inspired the younger Samik to study English literature, his political consciousness inspired Subrata, the eldest of his sons, to joining Communist Party.
Bandyopadhyay entered college in 1955 and graduated from the University of Calcutta in 1961 subsequently earned a Master of Arts degree in English literature. He started working as a lecturer Rabindra Bharati University in 1966. In 1973, he joined the Oxford University Press as an editor and worked there till 1982. He resigned and never sought an employment because no job was lucrative enough for buying the books he wanted to read. He took up tutoring English literature for his profession, which enriched his reading as well as brushed his critical edge. He continued book editing, however, with Seagull Books, till 1988, and then with Thema Publishing.
Bandyopadhyay joined the Communist Party of India after the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, -i.e., with full knowledge of the Soviet discovery of the truth about Stalinist era, when many of Indian Marxists were leaving the Communist Party out of the disgust that ensued. Later on, he also witnessed incorporation of Gramscian thought in Indian Marxism. In 1993, his book Antonio Gramsci Nirbachita Rachansamagra was published in Calcutta.
His first writing on theatre, on the actor Mei Lanfang of Beijing opera, was rather insignificant. His next article was on Jatra performances he saw in 1962; that was published in Bohurupi patrika. His love with theatre intensified and he started interviewing contemporary stalwarts of Bangla theatre, e.g., Utpal Dutt, Badal Sircar, Sombhu Mitra, among others, for further clarifications on their works.
His assessment of Nandikar's 1969 production of Tin Poysar Pala, and adaptation of Brecht's The Threepenny Opera:
"When we have a production of The Three Penny Opera which simply goes in for wild fun, we regard it as a compromise, a betrayal. The production has no point when there is serious political violence in Calcutta. ... This is status quo theatre, which means nothing to a generation that thinks in political terms.
Foucault's influence on him seems to be a later development. For instance, in 1986, he opines that in Vijay Tendulkar's play Ghashiram Kotwal, 'power is defined 'horizontally' (in the sense in which Maurice Duverger uses it in his The Idea of Politics, London, 1966)'. He does not bring in Foucaulding discourse of power yet. In his 2003 introduction to a collection of Tendulkar's plays (including Ghashiram Kotwal'), however, he sees them evolving around the hub of 'strong ethical concern exploring and critiquing the relations of power in all their complex ramifications' where power is 'what Michel Foucault defines as 'the relationship in which one wishes to direct the behaviour of another'.
Introducing his translation of the script of Mrinal Sen's Akaler Sandhane, Bandyopadhyay wrote in 1983 that this film raised 'disturbing questions about the Indian reality today and about the capacity of the medium to tackle this reality.' Samik has been questioning that capacity of film all along. In general, his assessment is as follows:
Bangla theatre or film did not enter into the social-political complexities of the 1970s. The emblemized angry young man of Kolkata could relate to his rural other only on the platform of Marxian theory; rest of the commonality is mere wrath. The urban youth, is portrayed not as directly participating in revolutionary activities: he is either hiding, or attacked or living a dual-life. This is the general portrait of Bangali angry young man as seen in theatre and films.
Book editing can be exciting, he tells in a story to Anandabazar Patrika.