HARANER NAT-JAMAI | GHARE BAIRE

Hārāner Nāt-jāmāi

Group: Jadavpur Ramyani

Dramatization & direction: Arun Mukherjee

 

Ghare Bāire

Group: Pancham Vaidic

Dramatization & direction: Arpita Ghosh

 

Review:

Two directors have revived their old dramatizations from Bengali fiction due to renewed political relevance. Arun Mukherjee first took up Manik Bandyopadhyay’s short story “Hārāner Nāt-jāmāi”, on the Tebhaga Movement, as a one-act for IPTA in the 1960s before giving it full-length treatment. Mass Theatres staged his script in 1970 directed by Jnanesh Mukhopadhyay. The play became quite popular with many groups afterwards. The farmers’ agitation recently made Arun Mukherjee revisit it for Jadavpur Ramyani, roping in several stars like Meghnad Bhattacharya, Shantilal Mukherjee and Soumitra Mitra as actors.

The strength of peasants uniting against the oppression of landlords and police comes across vividly, but I disagree with Mukherjee that satire and comedy dominate the story. It was too serious a subject for Bandyopadhyay to colour as lightly as Mukherjee does. The only broad humour in the original describes the villagers’ fun at the great escape of the fugitive that Mayna’s mother engineered. The Daroga, Manmatha, is the only drunkard, unlike in the play; he also makes a pass at Mayna. The story does not suggest that her husband Jagamohan stammers; these are cheap interpolations, apart from the songs of protest and a Ram–Sita–Jatayu folk-theatre episode as a diversion. But Debalina Chakrabarti (photo) stands out as the highly resourceful Mayna’s mother.

 

Arpita Ghosh dramatized Tagore’s Ghare Bāire in 2010 under the old regime in our state. Today, she sees the novel in a national perspective, which goes to show how Tagore’s works lend themselves to differing conditions. At the same time, because she projects the triangle as Bimala=the gullible Indian citizenry, Nikhilesh=the good liberal humanist, and Sandip=the bad Hindu nationalist, she ends up exposing how schematically Tagore wrote it, reducing the sprawling novel’s psychology to a black-versus-white synopticon. In such a situation, great irony results from the fact that Nikhilesh’s (and Tagore’s) anti-Swadeshi rationale is compromised presently by India’s abject dependence on Chinese goods of every conceivable kind.

In the earlier production, Ghosh gave herself ample space as Bimala, as did Tagore. Here, Sohini Sarkar, Arna Mukhopadhyay (Nikhilesh) and Anirban Bhattacharya (Sandip) share the spotlight more equally. Their acting has a presentational feel, many of their monologues delivered facing the audience, and too much of ascending and descending flights of steps. Ghosh wants us to read this version as contemporary, hence the cane furniture and costume design, with the men in kurta-pajamas rather than dhotis, while Bimala’s saffron-ochre Dhakai sari (photo) certainly makes us think.