Two modern classics in Bengali avatars, about famous artists at the ends of their lives, exemplify the polar opposites of theatrical transference. Jadavpur Manthan merits plaudits for choosing Ibsen’s final testament, When We Dead Awaken, neglected because it transcends his usual realistic perimeters. A double ovation because Rajib Bardhan opts for a translation (Satya Bhaduri’s Jaganiya Mritajan), not adaptation, given Indian directorial apprehensions against the former approach. But one should always consult a recent translation, in this case the New Penguin Ibsen, for greater accuracy.
Ibsen’s psychoanalysis of the sculptor Rubek retrospecting about the personal losses incurred by his acts of omission and commission receives appropriately intense treatment from Bardhan in the lead, Kalpana Baruah as the spectrally white Irena (his muse-lover) and Rayati Bhattacharya as Maia (his much younger wife). Using period costume and looks to underpin the realism, Bardhan flits fluidly into symbolism and expressionism as implied by Ibsen. In flashback, he introduces a second, younger Rubek, who resembles the older one uncannily. However, he must not corrupt Ibsen’s sublime ending by inserting a gesture that almost suggests murder by sorcery.
In Theatre Workshop’s Dirgha Din Dagdha Rat, “inspired” by O’Neill’s masterpiece Long Day’s Journey into Night, also written late in life, Chandan Sen strays so far from his source that perhaps he should not cite it at all. This has nothing to do with transposing it to rural Bengal, for Indianizations can remain faithful to the original. But Sen converts one son into a daughter, whose estranged husband arrives lured by real-estate prospects, and adds a second character from the past also without antecedent. Moreover, various skeletons tumble out from the family cupboard. O’Neill did not focus on narrative, but on searing characterization of the parents and sons. Here, director Ashok Mukhopadhyay’s hands are tied by incidents and revelations that keep interfering. Despite accomplished actors in Mukhopadhyay (the father), Suranjana Dasgupta (the mother), Loknath De (the alcoholic son), Bindiya Ghosh (the daughter) and Nayana Saha (the maid), we ultimately have a formulaic middle-class domestic melodrama.
(From The Telegraph, 23 June 2018)