The Maimansingha Gitikā (more accurately Palagan, the performance genre to which they belong), form the source for two invigorating Bengali productions. Naye Natuya’s eponymously-titled show has even made it to the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards, Delhi, next week, the lone Kolkata group to reach the finals. Maimansingha Gitikā is a misnomer, though, because Goutam Halder dramatizes only one of the stories in Dinesh Chandra Sen’s collection, that of Mahuya by Dwija Kanai – relevant to our bigoted times since the Brahmin girl in the Garo Hills, kidnapped and raised by the Bede, Humra, falls in love with prince Nader Chand.

Halder has also directed, choreographed and composed the live music, a versatile accomplishment. But unlike his early success Meghnādbadh Kābya, this is not a one-man show. On the contrary, he commendably detaches himself from the stage as the narrator, cultivating an objective distance and tone, often pacing the aisles while his large team theatricalizes the action. Dyuti Ghosh Halder stands out as a spirited Mahuya, but all contribute to a colourful – even unrealistically exotic – and power-packed presentation with hardly a moment’s stillness.

In contrast, Ekush Shatak’s Bukjhim ek Bhālobāsā consciously attempts to replicate the unencumbered purity of folk balladry. Director-storyteller Sraman Chatterjee delivers the late Bangladeshi author Syed Shamsul Haque’s novel with absolute textual fidelity. Haque had fictionalized the life of Mansur Bayati, creator of another Maimansingha Gitikā, and delicately paralleled in his biography the sad tales Mansur wove. The musical romance of Chand Sultana and Mansur (both singers) ends tragically with the Brahmaputra as backdrop. It may interest viewers to know that the mighty river changed its course in the 18th century, possibly during Mansur’s lifetime, reducing to a trickle the old channel by that name which still flows by the city of Maimansingha.

Chatterjee virtuosically enacts all characters, following the bayati’s solo style – the term comes from the Perso-Arabic lyrical mode. But he has talented supporting artists, notably Suhanishi Chakraborty, who could justifiably find more space. Subhadeep Guha unusually introduces Western instruments in the music.

(From The Telegraph, 14 April 2018)