The full-length Bengali productions invited to Bohurupee’s annual Natyotsab provided object lessons in how not to and what not to adapt. Sayangsandhya’s Chandragupta credits D. L. Roy and G. P. Deshpande as authors, and refers to history three times in its directorial note. Simple disclaimer first: do not get misled into thinking that the drama is historical, because we know nothing for certain about the lives of Chandragupta Maurya and Chanakya. Hindu, Buddhist and Jain accounts about them differ widely, agreeing only that Chanakya vowed to avenge Nanda’s insult of him.
Both Roy and Deshpande added lots of juicy fiction to serve their purposes in their respective plays – the former relying mainly on Puranic stories, the latter on Mudra-Rākshasa, the Sanskrit classic written 700 years after the Mauryas. Most importantly, they had separate agendas: Roy’s Chandragupta stoking the fire of patriotic nationalism in 1911, Deshpande’s Chānakya Vishnugupta questioning centralized power in 1989. Roy passionately glorified the Mauryas for uniting India; Deshpande cerebrally critiqued their materialistic imperial politics. To mix up Roy’s anti-British and Deshpande’s Marxist ideologies does justice to neither.
Consequently, Kaushik Chattopadhyay’s direction gives us a titular hero (Sujay Raj Maitra) completely sidelined by Chanakya’s constant commands, while Chanakya himself (Adhikari Kaushik) obsesses with single-minded revenge, not an intellectual whom we can associate with having conceived the magisterial Arthashāstra. If Chattopadhyay intends Chanakya to symbolize Hindu fundamentalism today, he fails, by arousing our feelings for him when he finds his lost daughter. High sentimentalism runs riot, undercut by a dead-drunk Nanda who nevertheless wakes up in battle (Ajay Chatterjee) and a buffoonish Virochak, both impossible to believe as rulers who could have lasted even a day.
Mukhomukhi’s revival of Soumitra Chatterjee’s Ghatak Bidāy adapted from Thornton Wilder’s romantic farce The Matchmaker, directed by Poulomi Chatterjee, entertains sporadically, disjointed by too many implausibilities. The blame rests on Wilder more than anyone else; his masterpiece, Our Town, cries out for a Bengali adaptation rather than this weak work. Anirban Chakraborty upstages everybody with his hilarious sustained cartoon of the merchant who wants to marry, always adjusting his fashionably tight trousers. Soumitra Chatterjee, in a cameo as one of his employees, breaks the fourth wall all of a sudden to deadpan a cleverly interpolated politicized soliloquy targeting the powerful people who rob the country.
(From The Times of India, 10 May 2019)