The December riots jolted many out of their complacency about the tolerance of Calcutta. Some artistes took one step further and decided to act upon the strength of their convictions. In the thespian world, Anya Theatre was possibly the first to create a new production that addressed the problem directly, even if through just an hour-long one-act play. Andhakār Theke (presented by Jadavpur University Drama Club, March 30) has had a few shows already, but merits further encouragement for the values it wishes to inculcate in the public.
Hara Bhattacharya’s script has a very natural conversational flow, as a middle-class Bengali family spends its time during curfew hours discussing the tension and the religious antagonism that feeds it. For once, a writer captures the substance and tone of common people’s dialogue on current affairs. The group has the courage to voice some typical myths about one community with the purpose of dispelling these falsehoods and reconciling both communities in friendship. The play ends with an idealistic picture of communal harmony which, viewers need assuring, in fact took place recently in the districts and was documented.
The director, Bibhash Chakraborty, affirms that the production is a collective venture; certainly it is a socially commendable one. Some of the acting—such as that of the armchair Hindu revivalist in the family (Bachchu Dasgupta)—is notable. Little attention is given to design aspects, in keeping with Anya Theatre’s objective that this play can be done in any place at any time, without any paraphernalia: a worthwhile functional shift away from their normally detailed style.
Another troupe with a message to deliver is Purbabhash Goshthi, whose new play, Nazi Bhut, draws an ominous analogy between Hindu fundamentalism and Nazi fascism. Writer-director Sital Chandra Ghosh’s Hindu-Muslim love story (doomed due to religious intolerance) and the melodramatic acting are not unusual. Also, he romanticizes Calcutta as a safe haven where the persecuted Muslim family in the play can escape to find shelter. Yet, as in the case of Anya Theatre, one must applaud Purbabhash for at least grappling with the most inﬂammatory social disease of our times, and for the unexpectedly realistic ending depicting how irrationally violent and criminally infested communal antipathy has become in India.
(From The Telegraph, 26 May 1993)