With unerring perspicacity over the last few years, Dwijen Bandyopadhyay of Samstab has selected works that comment on our sociopolitical conditions, often from foreign sources. He has done it again, in the centenary of Kafka’s writing The Trial, persuading Tirthankar Chanda to dramatize the novel, which has taken the form of an adaptation titled Āin-siddha. Bandyopadhyay’s main question: has civilization progressed at all since Kafka’s times?

So, Chanda gives Josef K an Indian name with similar associations, Jibankrishna, like him a bank officer, suddenly arrested one day by two strange, burly plainclothesmen on unspecified charges. For the rest of the play, Jibankrishna runs from pillar to post with no respite, as in the original. Besides Kafka’s obvious target, the courts of law, that not only harass the innocent but also suck them dry of life, ultimately proving the maxim that justice delayed is justice denied, Chanda underlines issues nearer home, of an administration in collusion that strong-arms ordinary citizens into helpless silence. How prophetically appropriate at the moment!

Chanda removes the multiple sexual encounters in The Trial, except one, involving the lawyer’s assistant. Otherwise he remains true to the text, peopling his dramatis personae with over twenty characters to match the spread of the novel. Saumik-Piyali’s set of many forbidding closed doors reminds me of Meyerhold’s for The Government Inspector, creating the same impact of bureaucratic indifference that kills the human spirit. As Jibankrishna, Bandyopadhyay reprises many similar roles of everyman that he has done in the past. By way of criticism, the scenes changed trippingly by stagehands and the intervening songs do not suit the mood.

Another intellectual giant of Kafka’s generation, Bakhtin, forms the most unlikely subject of a Bengali drama, Chorus’ Bakhtin/Bakhtin. Author Chiranjib Basu and director Gautam Sarkar take a great risk in this project, not a straightforward biography, for only the most learned of prospective viewers may want to see a play on the ideas propounded by one of the most influential theorists of the 20th century (who ironically did not have much to say about theatre). Sarkar does his best to comprehensibly interpret Bakhtin’s concepts of the carnivalesque and heteroglossia through colourful mise-en-scene and collective performance, but it still makes for heavy weather. Most contrarily, melodramatic outbursts of the kind that spoil Bengali theatre and have little to do with Bakhtin’s philosophy (apart from his painful osteomyelitis and the Soviets sentencing him to exile) weaken the latter half.

(From The Telegraph, 20 February 2016)