Sima Mukhopadhyay has developed a deep interest over recent years in drama on matters of health, especially that of the mind, reflected in her two latest directorial ventures. For her own group, Rangroop, she revives Mohit Chattopadhyaya’s Takhan Bikel, one of the finest Bengali productions of the 1990s, adapted from Old World (alternately translated as An Old-fashioned Comedy) by the popular Soviet playwright Aleksei Arbuzov. Closely following Arbuzov, Chattopadhyaya painted a lyrical canvas of the friendship growing between two most unlikely older people at a sanatorium: the strict managing doctor and a carefree disobedient patient. Loneliness and awareness of the fragility of existence form the backcloth against which the warmth of a non-romantic relationship offers joyful hope of permanence in emotional life.

Spectators who saw Asit Mukhopadhyay’s original production will naturally swear by it, but if we hypothetically erased those memories, Bimal Chakrabarti and Sima herself portray the characters with equal sensitivity and intensity. Experienced actors that they are, they betray no weakness whatsoever in double-handedly carrying this full-length work for its entire duration.

Shilpi Sangha of Howrah, for whom she also directs, takes a serious step forward with Gabhir Asukh. The writer, Snehashis Bhattacharya, bases it on a factual article by Dr Aniruddha Deb that appeared in Ānanda Bāzār Patrikā last year, about the miserable conditions in our mental hospitals. He creates a protagonist suffering from bipolar disorder whose father institutionalized her at a young age. Even though the physician treating her tells the parent to take her home after she responds well, because regular medication and the family environment guarantee her rehabilitation, he refuses. Meanwhile, this doctor, who wants to proactively make a difference in his workplace, faces typical stonewalling from his colleagues content to maintain the status quo, and himself turns into a wreck.

We witness complex, but never over the top, performances from the relatively unknown Soumita Banerjee and Bhattacharya himself in the leading roles. Everyone else in the cast supports with believable characterizations of their mostly unsympathetic parts, for which the credit must go partly to Sima Mukhopadhyay’s coaching.

(From The Telegraph, 8 July 2017)