One rejoices when a group from a district town springs a surprise, exploding the unfair stereotype that nothing artistically inventive happens in the suburbs. Barasat Kalpik has made a mark in theatre circles with their shorter plays, including a visit to the Thespo festival in Mumbai; still, that did not prepare me for Kramasha Ālote Andhakār. They ushered the small audience to chairs arranged on the stage itself, facing the auditorium, where we saw several acting areas that they had readied in the rows and aisle with suitable furniture or back screen, and spotlights targeting these specific zones. The first half occurred there, the cast moving from scene to scene skirting the empty spectators’ seats.

In the second half, the troupe asked us to switch to our customary positions instead and watch them on stage. The device was not a mere gimmick by director-designer Debobrata Banerjee, because it forced us to question the dynamics of the usual viewer’s gaze from a place of invisibility. However, Himadri Sekhar Dey’s impressionistic script does not match this brazen experimental technique. It shows a young couple (Dey and Soumi Paul) in a dysfunctional relationship — a fairly common topic — and their search for meaning, going on a journey, moving from real life (the hall) to fantasy world (the stage), reflected by the enactment in the flickering lights of video projection. One expects more adventurous work from this group in future, where text and treatment combine in perfect unison.

Khardaha’s Theatre Zone continues its activities under director Tapan Das, who interprets a play by his mentor Probir Guha, Kālindi, on the victimization of women in underprivileged communities. Kālindi traverses history, from the Santal Rebellion to contemporary times, to show the plight of women has not changed much in these societies, including Hindu and Muslim faiths too. Das attempts a positive conclusion by invoking Durga as an icon of empowering womankind, and Sayanti Ghatak possesses a strong presence in the lead, but male violence remains the dominant image. Das should think of practical ways to offer suggestions that can help his audiences ponder how to counter the bleak scenario.

(From The Telegraph, 18 February 2017)