Charbak’s newest presentation, Banjārā, continues their exemplary commitment to staging original drama created from within the group, instead of relying on the normal soft option of Bengali theatre—adapting foreign plays. However, Chandra Dastidar’s script this time shows little of the compositional strengths that made her Pratyāshā such a poignant success.
She specializes in human interest in a domestic setting. But Banjārā bites off more than it can chew: a gypsy gang confronting their social image as entertaining performers yet suspect purloiners; their religious tolerance; their severe handicap of illiteracy; their exploitation at the hands of those in power; and satire on the government trend of sponsoring folk festivals which in fact take advantage of the financial naivete of such groups. Each one of these themes can form a separate drama by itself, but by mingling all, full justice is done to none.
Thus, it almost seems like Dastidar was pressured to write something with a consciously social message. Her other strong point in Pratyāshā was compact, economic structure and development. Banjārā lacks these elements too, particularly in the second half, which meanders through several loosely-written scenes that make one long for the crisp and concise dialogue of Pratyāshā. It cannot be argued in defence that such episodic construction suits the nomadic subject matter of the play.
Jochhon Dastidar’s direction salvages the production to some extent. Certainly, as the Sardar, he acts capably in his characteristic understated manner. Kheyali Dastidar, as the young literate Bengali girl who joins the gang, resuscitates the play from time to time with her consistently uninhibited performance. Unfortunately, one of Charbak’s most charismatic actors, Sabyasachi Chakrabarty, does not have much of a role here.
Herā Pheri, directed by Shubha Khote (a Sanskriti Sagar presentation at Birla Sabhagar, January 17), may attract by virtue of its Bombay stars, but will hardly cause ripples among seasoned spectators of stock comedies of errors. Rakesh Bedi handles the harassed husband reasonably well, but the women flop; as for Tom Alter, one asks, ‘‘What’s a fine actor like you doing in a play like this?”
(From The Telegraph, 12 March 1993)