GUPI GAIN BAGHA BAIN | ALIK BABU | JANANI | CHALACHITTA CHANCHARI | CHHUTIR KHELA

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Two old warhorses of the Calcutta stage appeared among Anamika Kala Sangam’s Four Square Critics Choice at Gyan Manch last month. Anil De’s dramatization of Upendra Kishor Raychaudhuri’s Gupi Gāin Bāghā Bāin is Natyayan’s biggest hit, boasting an unbroken run from 1978 and now nearing one thousand performances. However, there is one big disadvantage of such long-running productions, namely, the cast becomes a bit stale from doing the same parts over and over again. Thus, the show on February 16 seemed loose and somewhat rusty at cues, with weak singing from Pradip Roy as Gupi, submerged by the music of the late Debashis Dasgupta. De himself, as Bagha (and also director of the play), showed more of a personality, while Debabrata Bhattacharya and Gitesh Chakraborty humorously acted cameos as the lisping Shundi Raja and his quacksalver respectively.

Jyotirindranath Tagore’s Alik Bābu (revived by Deshkal Natya Mandal, February 24), has entertained Bengali theatre-goers for over a century. Clearly derivative of Moliere, it nonetheless has some originality of thought: unlike most Western romantic comedies, the love story does not end happily, and the hero and heroine are not depicted as models of human nature; rather, they are satirized. On the other hand, these novelties have hardly any effect on the overwhelmingly farcical tone of the play, which director Asit Basu naturally emphasizes. His own acting in the typical Clever Servant’s role is far superior to that of Anadi Das in the lead (one cannot but remember that Rabindranath excelled in the latter part). Unfortunately, the women make very little contribution to fun.

A few one-act plays also featured in the festival. Pratichchhandak Sanskritik Chakra‘s Janani (February 17), written by Indrasish Laharry, uses a situation too close for comfort to Whose Life Is It Anyway?. Granted, the dominant, unseen mother injects a new angle, but otherwise Laharry does not have anything particularly new to say about the right to euthanasia. Satya Bhaduri directs Prasenjit Basu, the paraplegic boy, relatively well, whereas Susmita Sarkar looks slightly ill-at-ease as the nurse. Like several of Laharry’s recent creations (for example, the partygoers in Ekrāt Banalatā), she gets tipsy a little too easily.

Rupadaksha is one of Calcutta’s longest-lived groups, with a fairly distinguished career over the last thirty years. It staged Sukumar Ray’s scintillating short farce, Chalachitta Chanchari, on February 23. Characteristically laden with Ray’s hilarious nonsense, the play has a parodic edge too, lampooning both orthodox tradition and modernized reform. Director-actor Tarit Chowdhury freely walks away with the honours, his sparkling performance as the author Bhabadulal a perfect lesson in comic acting, especially remarkable for facial expressions and delivery of asides. Some of the others put in good caricatural portraits as well.

 

Kathakriti recently celebrated its fifth anniversary at Sisir Mancha on February 12. The first half of the programme was devoted to a seminar on “Literature-based Theatre”. Conducted by Bibhash Chakraborty, the lively discussion was participated in by Salil Bandyopadhyay (Theatron), Mohit Chattopadhyaya, and Shyamal Ghosh (Nakshatra) among others. The seminar was followed by Chhutir Khelā, a play by Amita Basu. Directed by Sanjib Roy, with commendable lighting by Joy Sen, the play was however extremely slow. And excepting Baishakhi Marjit and Nabakumar Bandopadhyay, none of the artistes impress.

(From The Telegraph, 19 March 1993)