Pirandello has become the flavour of this year in Bengali theatre, with a biodrama as well as two plays running concurrently. Sayak’s Bhālo Lok rediscovers the forgotten All for the Best, which he wrote in 1920, the year before his sensational Six Characters in Search of an Author. As such, it serves as a bridge between his earlier conventional work and the metatheatre for which he won global renown – a definite thematic continuity about the reality of illusion, without any structural innovation yet.
However, in Chandan Sen’s typical adaptational style, Bhālo Lok has mutated into half-Pirandello, half-Sen. Pirandello had created an everyman, a lowly clerk who lost interest in life after his dear wife’s death. Sen changes him into a selfless benefactor for the entire village (hence his title). This emphasis on virtue and respect goes against the karmic fatalism of the original title and the abject nature of Pirandello’s hero, whose beloved daughter forms his whole world, which collapses when she inadvertently lets slip what she thought he knew all along – that she is not his child. He loses the only truth he had held on to, and his image of his wife lies shattered.
Pirandello’s oeuvre abounds in such revelations where a belief turns out a lie, and depictions of how people handle these reversals in fortune. Realizing the unbeatable strength of his maestro’s pen, Sen returns to the storyline in the second half, which reaches a moving and climactic conclusion. But the first half, in which he introduced several superfluous speeches and characters, including the figure of the wife flitting supernaturally behind the sets, digressed too often for our patience.
The production’s success pivots on the acting prowess of the three principals. Meghnad Bhattacharya, also the director, gives the protagonist his customary touch, though I really wanted to see him enact Pirandello’s down-and-out derelict. Opposite him, Asis Ghosh plays his school friend, now a powerful politician, with matching depth rather than villainy so that their sparring conversations stay perfectly balanced in their war of different logics. But Bhālo Lok ultimately belongs to Kathakoli, who subtly delineates the development the daughter undergoes in her attitudes through her expressions, and checkmates the ending with an utterly unexpected non-prose epiphany.
(From The Times of India, 14 June 2019)