Brātya Āmi Mantrahin

Group: Bibartan (Jessore)

Director: Yusuf Hassan Arko

Dramatization: Sadhana Ahmed

Source: Tagore


Kahe Birānganā

Group: Manipuri Theatre (Sylhet)

Director: Shubhashis Sinha

Source: Michael Madhusudan Dutt



Group: Mahakal (Dhaka)

Director: Yusuf Hassan Arko

Dramatization: Anan Jaman

Source: Nazrul Islam



Group: Aranyak (Dhaka)

Dramatist-director: Mamunur Rashid


Kathā 71

Group: Dhaka Padatik

Director: Debashis Ghosh

Dramatist: Kumar Pritish Bal

Aneek’s 21st Ganga Jamuna Natya Utsab showcased Bangladeshi theatre unprecedentedly, inviting six troupes from across the country. More than the numbers, the unconventional content merits praise, as many as four plays dealing with various Bangladeshi minorities, in a strong message that their theatre defends plurality.


The most unusual, Brātya Āmi Mantrahin by Bibartan (Jessore), focused on Bauls, often the target of persecution. Writer Sadhana Ahmed adapts Tagore’s story “Boshtami” to imagine a deep communion between the Vaishnavi ascetic (enacted by her) and Tagore in Shilaidaha. The parallel strands of her renouncing married life and Tagore’s spiritualism while running his zamindari alternate until they converge, in a stirring metaphysical union supported by Lalan Fakir’s songs and Rabindrasangit (Lalan lived very near Shilaidaha, of course, and influenced Tagore). Yusuf Hassan Arko directs with a disarming sincerity and sensitive arrangements of songs.


From a remote village north of Tripura, Manipuri Theatre (in Sylhet subdivision) surprised us by the fact that they continue to practise their traditional Manipuri arts. Under director Shubhashis Sinha, they have dramatized four epistles of Michael Madhusudan Dutt’s Birānganā Kābya as Kahe Birānganā, performed virtually solo by Jyoti Sinha, choosing all four heroines from the Mahābhārata, each reproaching her husband in her letter for his wrongs and injustices: Shakuntala, Draupadi, Duhshala and Jana.


Mahakal Natya Sampraday (Dhaka) presented Nilākhyān, dramatized by Anan Jaman from Nazrul Islam’s famous tragic tale, Sāpure, about the snake-charmer community who worship Manasa. Here, too, director Yusuf Hassan Arko dwells on duality, of devotion against passion, and how giving in to the latter invariably guarantees retributive punishment from one’s personal deity. The protagonist’s vainglorious quest for mastery over poison also lets his ego get the better of his faith.


Another Dhaka group, Aranyak, brought Rārhang, about a Santal colony of labourers settled in northern Bangladesh who find that their employer’s promises of giving them land remain unfulfilled. Unfortunately, dramatist-director Mamunur Rashid’s farcical caricatures of their oppressors – from their overlords to the police to their Christian priest – undermines the severity of their plight, while Santals may complain of racial profiling of attributes such as dancing and drinking.


The two other groups, Dhaka Padatik and Amader Theatre (Dinajpur), staged productions along mainstream historical lines. Padatik’s Kathā 71, by Kumar Pritish Bal, attempts to educate the present generation on Bangladesh’s freedom struggle. Debashis Ghosh directs with substantial documentary footage interspersed between melodramatic scenes that, placed beside most of the plays above, seemed old-fashioned in comparison.


(From The Times of India, 22 February 2019)