Group: ECTA

Director: Soumendu Bhattacharya

Dramatist: Sudipta Bhawmik

Recommended: 4 stars


Bishanna Bārud

Group: Ebang Theatrix

Director: Dibyendu Paul

Dramatist: Ratan Kumar Das

Source: Pali Bhupinder Singh


Bengali-American groups have taken to serious themes for some time now, leaving behind the light entertainment and Tagoreana that form the staple of their theatre as a hobby. Two examples flew down to recent festivals: Apaharan by ECTA from New Jersey at Anik’s Ganga-Jamuna Festival, and Bishanna Bārud by Ebang Theatrix from Washington D.C. at Nandikar.


Once again, Sudipta Bhawmik demonstrates his strength as dramatist for ECTA. In Apaharan he chooses to write on child custody and abduction by a parent, based on cases he has heard about in the Indian-American community. Here, a divorced mother takes her daughter to India permanently without informing her ex-husband who has won custodial rights. Local Bengali playwrights can learn a thing or two from Bhawmik, who considers dispassionately every side of the dispute, legal complications, international treaties and even underground kidnapping networks before arriving at the most sensible outcome. And he achieves everything through flashbacks and flash-forwards.


The cast, too, impress with their natural acting: the parents (an understandably agitated Surath Sinha and a wilful Sayantani Basu Datta), her parents in India (the emotionally-wrought Arpana Bhattacharya and Soumendu Bhattacharya, the director himself) and the troubleshooter (a suitably matter-of-fact Bhawmik). Only one characterization bothered me, that of the excessively comical Indian lawyer (albeit performed perfectly by Keshab Chatterjee), who does not fit the image of a highly-paid Supreme Court advocate.


Ebang Theatrix advertised the tautologically-titled Bishanna Bārud as a play by our very own Ratan Kumar Das, but he actually adapted it from a translation of Terrorist di Premikā, by Punjabi writer Pali Bhupinder Singh. Das changes the Khalistani setting to a Naxalite one without any damage to credibility. An extremist enters the house of a DSP (who has gone to work on Holi leaving a skeleton staff at home) to avenge the custody torture and death of his fiancee, and ends up converting the officer’s wife to sympathize with him, stressing for us that both sides resort to brutality. Shampa Basu and Dibyendu Paul portray the couple’s incompatibility capably, complemented by Arindam Ghosh (the Naxal) and the buffoonish police orderly, but Paul’s direction gives Basu’s admittedly tuneful Rabindrasangits too much leeway, dragging the progress.


(From The Times of India, 3 January 2020)