Thanks to the organizational abilities of Nandipat, the fortnight-long Padma-Ganga Utsav sponsored by Charms Mini Kings brought to the western edge of the delta a broad cross-section of Bangladeshi theatre, cinema and music. Such cultural exchanges are necessary for a thorough comprehension of the state of the arts elsewhere, even if (as in the case of this festival) the results do not reflect favourably on the thespian muse in Bangladesh.

Indeed, as far as three of the five opār Bānglā theatrical presentations were concerned, one can safely say that even an amateurish Calcutta troupe could display a superior sense of drama, stagecraft and acting. Not in a long time have we seen such rank bad large-cast productions as Dhaka Theatre’s Bhut and Theatre’s Rākshusi and Sat Ghater Kanakari (November 24, 28 and 29 respectively, at Rabindra Sadan).

Tariq Anam Khan stretches his dramatization of a simple Rajasthani folk tale about a mischievous ghost into the boring Bhut, made even more insufferable by Humayun Faridi’s almost juvenile direction. Likewise, Mamtazuddin Ahmad tediously drags Kazi Nazrul Islam’s short story Rākshusi on and on until it loses all force, while his original play Sat Ghater Kanakari is the usual predictable allegory of an old mother and her seven sons dying one by one. Its saving grace is the attack on religion and politics in Bangladesh, which a follower of her recent history might catch. Otherwise, Ahmad directs in a tiresomely melodramatic vein.

The contrast provided by Natyakendra’s debut production, Bichchhu (November 26, Rabindra Sadan), came as welcome relief. Adapted from Moliere’s Les Fourberies de Scapin, its unadulterated fun blew a zephyr of fresh air into the maudlin milieu, though it took time to warm up and fell short of the recent Calcutta version, Scapino!. Basically, adapter-director Tariq Anam Khan’s promise to prove that “comedy and cheap buffoonery are greatly different” remains largely theoretical: the show itself rarely rises above farce. Still, healthy performances come from Zahid Hasan as Yusuf/Scapin and Mubina Ahmed Jali and Nahid Ferdaus Meghna as the inamoratas.

Eagerly awaited on account of their triple triumph with Shakespeare, Brecht and Beckett last year, Nagarik dismayed this time with Irshā (December 3, Academy of Fine Arts). Saiyad Shamsul Haq’s original verse play about a menage a trois may have explicit language but little sense of theatre, composed of seven monotonously lengthy monologues following one another. He might learn a thing or two from Harold Pinter. It amazes to find Ataur Rahman, who directed a fine Godot in 1991, completely oblivious to the awkward sight of people on stage having nothing to do when each speaker talks endlessly. Only Khaled Khan, the youth, reveals some intensity; Jamaluddin Hosen and Sara Zaker just do not get into their parts, understandably unconvinced by what amounts to “Three Characters Desperately in Search of a Play”.

(From The Telegraph, 15 January 1993)