Simple, straightforward narratives of the victimization of women in Bengali village life mark two productions based on the older work of famous authors.

The new group Bahuswar embarks on its journey with the Ismat Chughtai story Chauthi kā Jodā (1946), translated by Sanchari Dasgupta as Chaturthir Jor, and co-produced by Niva Arts. Although Chughtai wrote in Urdu to reform her own community, Pushpal Mukhopadhyay’s dramatization naturalizes her pioneering activism in Bengali conditions, describing the pathetic and then terrible situation befalling a mother and her two unmarried girls giving hospitality to a prospective son-in-law — in fact, an opportunist and predator.

Director Tulika Das not only coaches a fresh and largely untested ensemble into an authentic depiction of rural Muslim society, but enacts the mother herself with stoic determination in the face of fatalistic odds. Samadrita Pal and Manomita Chaudhuri (her daughters) show no trace of greenhorn jitters, while the veteran Sumita Basu has a field day as a gossipy Hindu neighbour. Abhijit Acharya’s score rings true.

Music forms the richest element in Alap’s performances, too, thanks to the special talents of founder Parthapratim Deb. He finds a readymade vehicle for it in Selim Al Deen’s early drama Kittankholā, composed during the late 1970s while researching Bangladeshi folk theatre and formulating the influential concept of Grām Theatre. Kittankholā follows the ill fortunes of a Hindu Jatra company whose leading lady becomes the object of desire of a local strongman, precipitating a tragic end.

Deb’s direction tends to foreground his own character as the villager who reluctantly steps in to replace the hero, but the actress (Rupa Deb) should receive at least equal time. Both sing impeccably, her voice requiring greater projection when using lower scales. Shipra Pal provides the ideal foil as the feisty and liberated gypsy. Scenographically, however, the sequences at the fair repeat the same routines, and the set is too static.

Both productions begin with scenes of mourning over a corpse, then move into flashback, thereby taking away any surprise about what happened. Since the main impact lies in the endings, they should probably not be disclosed at the start.

(From The Telegraph, 17 June 2017)