Courtroom drama can succeed only on the bedrock of perfect plausibility – unless, of course, the director consciously applies a stylized approach right through, say, for satirical objectives. Two perennial classics of the genre, now running in new productions, demand attention to credible detailing.
Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution, translated faithfully by Kaberi Basu, forms the text for Kalyani Natyacharcha Kendra’s Tomār Kono Satya Nei, superior to the previous Bengali edition, Calcutta Performers’ recent Sākshi. Director Kishore Sengupta adapts it to Kolkata, but without replicating local courts, leading to our disbelief: for example, the absence of legal costumes. Christie’s most critical character, the mysterious woman possessing prime evidence, is so easily recognizable as a result of poor makeup that we wonder how the experienced senior lawyer cannot see through her. He, in turn, supposedly a cardiac patient, scampers around like an accomplished sprinter. The Anglo-Indians in the dramatis personae speak Bengali without a trace of their charming giveaway lilt.
Notwithstanding these superficial foibles, the actors perform ably. The defence counsel (Sengupta) finds a worthy opponent in the prosecutor (Anupam Chakraborti). The accused (Anindya Bandyopadhyay) persuades us of his innocence. His wife (Madhumita Banerjee) keeps us guessing throughout. Soumi Acharya is the most consistent as Sengupta’s nagging sister (originally maid), holding up the sub-style of farce. But the girlfriend at the end should not appear so conspicuously beforehand.
Vijay Tendulkar’s Silence! The Court Is in Session is conceptually challenging because of the trial within the play: how much veracity, how much make-believe? For Theatrecian, debut director Arush Sengupta valiantly tries to come to grips with it, but falls short in either analysing the two plays-in-one or conveying their development to his cast. Everyone acts themselves, instead of putting on their theatrical masks for the rehearsal. Consequently, the inquisition does not turn as vicious as it should. And the deletion of the concluding return to reality denies the Pirandellian uncertainty that Tendulkar left us with, about the truth.
Ishaani Priyadarshini, as Benare, does not express growing surprise at her victimization during the trial. The last version of Silence! in English, by The Red Curtain, used cardboard portrayals in a sustained manner, but here the unevenness disappoints. The most natural are Mrs Kashikar (Anushree Tapadar) and Ponkshe (Zahid Hussain). Apratim Chatterjee’s fumbling with the judge’s lines weakens his characterization. In further declining order of believability come Rokde (Aaron Targain), Sukhatme (Anushka Dasgupta), Karnik (Sneha Malakar) and Samant (Sengupta himself).
(From The Times of India, 28 September 2018)