Youth theatre in this city – though some of these troupes may justifiably claim they are no longer young and qualify for treatment on par with regular groups – encounters its first major roadblock when members leave after joining the job market. Those still passionate about the art find it difficult to continue with reduced numbers and often, sadly enough, the unit disbands.
Hypokrites, now ten years old, has persevered somehow or the other. Always among the more theatrically innovative of their generation, they still pick up uncommon plays like Mohit Chattopadhyaya’s one-act 16 Pātā, sixteen performances of which they have staged so far. Bengali theatre avoids such short drama, ignoring their value especially in the Absurdist movement, similar to Chattopadhyaya’s own questioning of dramatic conventions in this script. Two “madmen” in a madhouse discuss their aspirations. One has written a play in 16 pages but worries how he can enter it in a competition whose guidelines stipulate 15 pages. Director Saikat Ghosh adds a few contemporary allusions to bring it up to date, while Susnata and Anindya act maturely, but they make heavy weather of Chattopadhyaya’s satiric touch.
The subject reminded me of the artist-dreamers in Neel Chaudhury’s Tārāmandal, based on Satyajit Ray’s Patal-bābu Film Star and revived by Whole 9 Yards, also ten years of age, which too has notched up several successful shows. Abhrajit Sen directed it bilingually in a coffee shop, so that we overheard the multiple conversations, and inserted many more musical interludes (scored by Dibyokamal Mitra) than in the original. Located in the actual cafe venues of Gorky Sadan or Alliance Francaise, the whole thing replicated European cafe theatre or the legendary off-off-Broadway Cafe La Mama – a novel concept in Kolkata. The seven-member cast delivered breezy performances led by Deepta Deep Chakraborty as Patal-babu imagining his cine career, and by the spirited actresses Roshni Bhattacharyya, Tanika Basu and Ananya Sen.
The babies on the block, Performers’ Anonymous, debuted with The Pink Spider by writer-director Riddhi Roy, on the nefarious world of the Dark Web to which many young people fall prey. Of course the topic is immediate, but the execution (pun intended) amateurish. The team requires much more exacting self-criticism, stage discipline and rigorous acting. A few of the seniors display their superior craft individually, but should impart it to their juniors better. They can take home as a positive their attempt at original, relevant scripting: not too many beginners risk exposing their learning curve in this department.
(From The Times of India, 25 January 2019)