AMI PLUTO | KHOKKAS

Āmi Pluto

Group: Beadon Street Subham

Source: Steve Metzger, Debatosh Das

Director: Anamitra Khan

Recommended: ★★★★

 

 

Khokkas

Group: Sansriti

Dramatist: Evgeny Schwartz

Director: Debesh Chattopadhyay

Review:

Bringing together young and older actors to comment on global issues, using sources from the West, two Bengali groups have mounted large-scale, even spectacular, productions. The first, Beadon Street Subham, took up Debatosh Das’s adaptation of Steve Metzger’s 32-page illustrated children’s book Pluto Visits Earth! for dramatization, and has succeeded in enchanting their audiences, although it tests patience by crossing the accepted two-hour attention span. A sci-fi fantasy, Āmi Pluto finds the demoted planet landing in Bengal to correct the International Astronomical Union’s reclassification of it as a dwarf planet. Local children come to Pluto’s aid in a formulaic good kids vs bad guys scenario, a trope obviously perfected on and indebted to ET the Extra-Terrestrial.

Thus, neither the storyline nor the length wins kudos, but Anamitra Khan’s directorial execution propels it sky-high. The cast interacts live with CGI and animation on screen fluidly, integrating Ujan Chatterjee’s videography, Ritabrata Joardar and Samarendra Sinha’s tech, and Subhankar De’s lighting, peaking in a luminous vanishing-with-fireflies scene, right up to the creative closing credits and an endearing dedication to grandparents. Building on their advantages of training in a youth repertory, Sudeep Dhara (a blue-bodied Pluto), Debrup Datta Bhaumik (his Bengali namesake), and Asmaan Datta and Swaragiti Modak (friends) teamwork effortlessly. If Anamitra edits judiciously, they would not have to rush through their dialogue or perform at a hyperactive pace. Definitely a must-see for children.

 

Back in the USSR, the Soviets supported children’s theatre for its influence on future generations’ attitudes. In fact, Evgeny Schwartz’s famous “fairy tale” The Dragon (1944), in which Lancelot arrives in a land where a dragon demands human sacrifices, became identified with the fight against Nazi Germany. But later, when Stalin realized that the beast could be read as Communist repression, his regime stopped revivals of it. Talking about her adaptation of it as Khokkas for Sansriti, Arpita Ghosh outspokenly attacks power in politics, which always corrupts, whatever the party. Schwartz also made us aware that the creature’s death does not liberate: Lancelot says on his return, “We must kill the dragon in each one” of the townspeople, indicting us collectively for enabling such monsters.

Debesh Chattopadhyay’s direction recruits a band of youths as a chorus, gravitating around adults as the dramatis personae. The main problem lies in Rupam Islam’s musical arrangements, which do not give due importance to vocal phrasing and douse Anirban Bhattacharya’s lyrics. On top of that, Buddhadev Das is quite anticlimactic in the eponymous role that offers grand opportunities for magical costume changes and sound effects instead of just a pair of red devil-horns (a go-to hairband in recent Bengali theatre). Debsankar Halder interprets the saviour as a wandering everyman rather than a knight at arms, while Mayurchhanda Ghosh as the damsel in distress makes a competent debut in a leading part.