Manoj Mitra seems to reserve his sober writing for his own group Sundaram, while his lighter works are available for other groups. Bohurupee in particular has put on successful stagings of at least two Mitra comedies—Rājdarshan and Kinu Kāhārer Thetār—the latter premiered on the occasion of Bohurupee’s fortieth anniversary in 1988, but still very much in their repertoire, serving as their entry in the Anamika Kala Sangam/Four Square Critics Choice festival (Gyan Manch, March 6).
The play is a witty metatheatrical story about a village troupe and its rustic histrionics. Mitra weaves the outer and inner tales dexterously, as we learn how Kinu Kahar (the manager) was never allowed to complete any show of his drama titled Ghantakarner Pālā because the authorities always construed it as subversive. The play within the play also ends ambivalently since the simpleton Ghantakarna, who accidentally makes a career out of functioning as the local scapegoat in any problem, finds himself in a situation where he can reach the peak of his “profession” by becoming the ultimate scapegoat—earning his biggest payoff by agreeing to die in place of the real culprit.
As director, Kumar Roy preserves the dual thrust by nurturing the surface humour as well as cultivating the ironic nuances. His comic touch brings a welcome corrective to Bohurupee’s image, which may have suffered stereotyping as too intellectual. Roy underscores the notion that comedy is not necessarily inferior theatre. In the eponymous role, Tarapada Mukhopadhyay is perfect, giving his performance as Ghantakarna just enough moronity to differentiate between the inner and outer parts. The two women members of his group—his money-minded wife (Sukriti Lahori) and more appealing sister-in-law (Sumita Basu)—are the most memorable among the supporting cast.
Revivals are among the trickiest propositions in the theatrical business, particularly when the original production happened to receive some amount of acclaim. Both Nakshatra’s Brishti Brishti (March 11) and Samikshan’s Mrichchhakatik (March 13) were selected for the Anamika Kala Sangam/Four Square Critics Choice festival on the strength of their past repute, but both exemplified in different ways how revivals can turn comparatively lacklustre.
Brishti Brishti was one of Nakshatra’s many hits during the Seventies, but times have changed since then. Even the source of Asit De’s adaptation, Richard Nash’s The Rainmaker, has quietly slipped into oblivion and now cannot even find a place for itself in American theatre history. Its Fifties-style fantasy sounds too naively optimistic in our cynical times; thus it might have been better for Nakshatra to let sleeping dogs lie. Notwithstanding intense portrayals from the sister (Baishakhi Marjit) and one of the brothers (Swapan Roy), Shyamal Ghose is unable to update the directorial tone adequately; his own symptomatically sentimentalised postures as the magic-maker disappoint most of all.
Mohit Chattopadhyaya’s adaptation of Mrichchhakatik is a more recent success story for Samikshan, the one Bengali group who can handle large-cast choreographed musicals well. Unfortunately, this classic relies so much on the actress playing Vasantasena that, without the right person, it can become quite intolerable. Director Pankaj Munshi’s cardinal error in reviving this production is that he has not suitably replaced his initial leading lady: Angana Bose just does not have the poise to carry off one of the most sought female roles in Sanskrit drama. Her confidante, Madanika (Chitra Bhattacharjee), is even more shaky. Despite the men’s best efforts (specially Kali Mukherjee’s delightful Sansthanak), this version fails. The ordinary design and often unaesthetic music, surprisingly by the venerable Khaled Choudhury and Debashis Dasgupta respectively, cause further discomfort.
(From The Telegraph, 23 April 1993)