BHANU SUNDARIR PALA | ASRUNADI | NIL RANGER GHORA | SATABDIR SWAPNA | CHHOTA GALPA

Bhānu Sundarir Pālā

Group: Chakdaha Natyajan

Source: Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

Director: Sayik Siddiquee

 

Asrunadi

Group: Karimpur Natyapremy

Dramatist: Amar Mitra

Director: Kishore Sengupta

 

Nil Ranger Ghorā

Group: Krishti (Ranchi)

Dramatist: Mohit Chattopadhyaya

Director: Saurav Palodhi

 

Satābdir Swapna

Group: Uttarfalguni (Agartala)

Dramatist: Agantuk

Director: Haradhan Datta

 

Chhota Galpa

Group: Hatibagan Sangharam

Dramatist/Adapter: Arindam Mukherjee

Director: Tathagata Chaudhuri

Review:

Sayak resuscitated their competitive festival of Bengali plays this year, last held in 2018, and featured ten productions selected by Debasis Majumdar on the basis of their scripts. As a policy, Sayak gives half of the slots to groups from outside Kolkata, a worthwhile effort to grant them greater visibility. Of the five I had not seen before, two came from other districts of West Bengal, and one each from Jharkhand and Tripura.

Chakdaha Natyajan’s Bhānu Sundarir Pālā, adapted from Romeo and Juliet and guest-directed by Sayik Siddiquee from Bangladesh, had only a tenuous link with Shakespeare: Chandrakumar and Bhanumati belong to opposing Brahmin families contesting elections, and first meet each other at a temple. Only in the later half do the plots converge, though the 90-minute duration perforce leaves out a lot. Siddiquee’s Palagan style lifts it out of the ordinary, the performers all seated in a semicircle on the periphery, interchanging roles freely, their exuberant singing and narration making it a lively experience.

From remote Karimpur on the Bangladesh border came Natyapremy’s Asrunadi. The guest director, Kishore Sengupta of Kalyani, told me how impressed he was by the group’s commitment, despite having virtually no support or infrastructure. Amar Mitra’s straightforward romantic triangle based on his own Sesh Pāhār Asrunadi involving a husband, wife and her college beau goes back to the troubled 1970s and forth to the present. The lead (Piyashi Biswas), her maid (Priya Pal) and the maid’s father (Arup Biswas) produce the best acting, but the cast was often rusty with their cues.

From Ranchi, Krishti staged Mohit Chattopadhyaya’s Nil Ranger Ghorā (1964), loosely based on D.H. Lawrence’s short story “The Rocking-horse Winner”, about a man’s foreknowledge of racehorses that win and his greedy family pressuring him to continue. Guest director Saurav Palodhi imposes a stripped design, using only benches moved around to indicate different locations, and instructing the actors to face the audience as much as possible. The technique is not new (I saw a better implementation of furniture reassembled recently in Nitya Natya Sanstha’s Lāsh), but its best effects appear in the group photos scene. The background soundtrack sounds too repetitious—a problem I notice in new productions by Ichheymoto, which Palodhi heads).

Agartala’s Uttarfalguni presented Satābdir Swapna, written by Agantuk and directed by Haradhan Datta. It should not have qualified for the festival, its poor standards in all departments of theatre way below the other contestants. However, the script, on Kanishka’s imperialistic wars and their tragic consequences on his subjects before Buddhist principles won him over, spoke to our times.

Kolkata’s Hatibagan Sangharam put on Chhota Galpa, three tales stitched by Arindam Mukherjee into a full-length piece by the device of one narrator in the character of an author (who in this production is also the director, Tathagata Chaudhuri). The first story (and the concept) originates in Neil Simon’s The Good Doctor, dramatizing Chekhov’s stories, this one about a man at the seaside who charges viewers to watch him drown. The second, Mukherjee’s original composition with a nod to Simon/Chekhov’s “A Defenceless Creature”, shows a Posta Bazar Hindi-speaking porter entering the Reserve Bank of India to demand the money he considers his dues from the government who has got it from people paying taxes supposedly for national development. Although a small part, Buddhadeb Das gives it the finest, most natural acting I have seen him in. Marquez’s No One Writes to the Colonel inspired the third story: a senior citizen needing a knee replacement owns a letter of Gandhiji’s, but refuses to sell it to pay for the surgery. The theme common to all three, obviously, is what the social underdog has to do so as to procure money. But Chaudhuri should edit the text, especially his own lines apologizing and explaining unnecessarily.