Comic adaptation in Bengali theatre must tread carefully not to counter its source’s objective. Chandan Sen based Sayak’s Premkathā on Moliere’s classic The Miser, but in content and form it deviates from the original. The legendary French director Jean-Louis Barrault stated that the most tragic French plays are the most comic, like Moliere’s masterpieces. By directing Premkathā as a merry romantic farce, Meghnad Bhattacharya makes it funny on the surface, but misses the profound social satire underneath and its immediacy for us: obsession with money makes Moliere’s protagonist a perfect illustration of our galloping capitalism.
Scholars place The Miser among Moliere’s finest achievements, his top four comedies of character, and Bhattacharya as the maladjusted lead excels like only he can. However, Sen denies him the occupation of usurer breeding wealth for its own sake, turning him into a cloth merchant instead. The other dramatis personae in the production exemplify caricature rather than portraiture, while the supernumerary (and superfluous) clowns do not appear at all in Moliere. My wish remains: for a Bengali director with the guts to adapt Moliere’s Tartuffe to India’s present climate.
In contrast, the fledgling repertory of Beadon Street Subham workshopped Parashuram’s short story Mahesher Mahājātrā into the punny Shab (“corpse”) Charitra Kālpanik, keeping the absurdist spirit even while expanding it. Two friends constantly bicker about the existence of ghosts, their quarrel culminating in a finale worthy of dark comedy a la Ionesco. Although Kallol Lahiri’s dramatization needs editing because of the length or irrelevance of some scenes, director Anamitra Khan sustains a fast and snappy pace, powered by the youthful energy of nearly 30 actors and an eclectic soundtrack from blues to Bangla band. He also creates several truly creepy images, such as nooses swinging down for five simultaneous suicides by hanging, or a female wraith whose glowing 12-inch-long fingernails appear before the rest of her does. Ironically, the amount of onstage smoking guarantees the birth of many ghosts before their time.
(From The Telegraph, 16 September 2017)