Bengali plays by writers active two or three decades ago are seeing revivals now. Dipendra Sengupta, perhaps best known for Gābbu Khelā, composed Bijaner Chār Deoyāl in 1984 as an embittered drama about a young man who feels cabined by the cruelty of family, society and the whole world. Today, director Suman Sengupta finds that it speaks to us, and stages it for Dwitiya Satta with some editing and interpolation of appropriate poems. He also enacts Bijan and designs the scenography. He delivers a bravura portrait of frenzied alienation, in which the other characters function as mere satellites, seen through Bijan’s clouded vision, and therefore it often teeters on the edge of heavy self-indulgence. Alongside, the expressionistic mise-en-scene presents constantly arresting images of his mind.
At the opposite pole, Gautam Ray, who famously adapted the hit Srimati Bhayankari from The Taming of the Shrew in 1980, authored Manaschauryam in a similar light style. Sanat Chandra directs it for Alingan and performs the lead, a crazy scientist who has invented a potion that, if injected, can make one read another’s mind (a little like Badal Sircar’s debut, Solution X). After he persuades his reluctant student to participate in the experiment, it backfires, resulting in a typical case of exchanged identities. The cast rides the screwball comedy with aplomb, but of course cannot achieve much more than simple entertainment.
Indrashis Laharry departed prematurely four years ago, and Howrah Jonaki pays homage with one of his best plays, Jaljyānta (1994), in which loved ones gather to commemorate the head of the household. Suddenly, he reappears and, to everyone’s consternation, wants to take up where he left off when he died, as if nothing had happened. The reactions of the others are revealing. Laharry succeeded in mixing mystery with psychoanalysis, keeping us guessing. It is difficult for us to erase memories of Chenamukh’s original production, but Sudipa Basu directs this one well, maintaining an equilibrium among the dramatis personae so that nobody upstages anyone else.
(From The Telegraph, 20 January 2018)