Magic and the supernatural pervade two Bengali plays revived. Ekush Shatak goes back to one of Mohit Chattopadhyaya’s earliest, the poetic and elusive Nishād (1968), which one can interpret in various ways. It prophesies that the doctor protagonist will die twice and be reborn, his survival a third time depending on his actions. Three scenes follow him through life, a Magician terminating two of them with his death, but above the magician rules a Master demanding unwavering loyalty – who could symbolize anything from a boss to God.

Dwijen Bandyopadhyay directs this ambiguous yet intriguing scenario capably, underscoring how the decisions we take affect our future, though he stresses their randomness and our position as puppets in the hands of fate. But he keeps Chattopadhyaya’s insistence on the exceptional mind that resists easy, selfish temptations dangled by the hunter in the title. Subhankar Roy acts the doctor appropriately as unheroic and uncertain; Mishka Halim gives support as his wife, compromising in mid-life but protecting him at the end.

Kathakriti reformulates its 1999 production of Saumitra Basu’s Adbhut as Bhautik. Basu rewrote it, but not extensively, retaining its fanciful charm while improving on some rough edges. Two disillusioned young lovers enter a forest to commit suicide, gaining sympathy from an unhappy ghost who himself wants to return to the land of the living. So he needs to die as a spirit, and they agree on a quid pro quo. But results do not go as planned, and the mortals (being human) renege on their promise, as Basu develops his plot ironically.

Kinjal Nanda (the “odd Bhut”), Nabanita Mukharji Das and Shubhabrata Basu (the couple) hold our interest in the story successfully. The director, Sanjib Ray, has not made major changes, other than choreograph a group of ghosts in the haunted forest. This insertion, however good-looking, does not appear essential to the drama – just the opposite of Nishād, where Chattopadhyaya specified a bunch of boys to function chorically, but Bandyopadhyay reduces their numbers to only two.

(From The Telegraph, 21 January 2017)