Two famous illusory theatrical inspectors have reappeared in Kolkata, resurrected by the Hindi groups who first presented them 20 years ago. Padatik–rikh returns to Gogol’s classic political satire, The Government Inspector, in Sanjay Sahay’s Indianization titled Janch Partal, while Proscenium newly adapts Priestley’s psychological suicide mystery, An Inspector Calls, as Detective Inspector S. P. Singh.
Civic corruption was Gogol’s target, still relevant for us two centuries later. When Vinay Sharma first staged it, he wrote in his directorial note about the officials “caught with their pants down”. He seems to have become more resigned now: he says “when we can’t beat it, let’s laugh at it.” But he brings back his defining symbolic furniture in the seating arrangement of commodes, which had influenced the title of my old review, “The Potty State of Indian Politics”. The more times change, the pot stays the same.
Sharma as a rule does not direct the same text twice – it risks repeating oneself – but we can understand his choice since Janch Partal requires 20 parts, fitting the batch of young recruits to Padatik. He puts them through their paces, raising expectations for future productions with them, as none of them disappoint, all performing as a tight ensemble. At the top of the slapstick heap, the Mayor and his wife receive appropriately crude farcical portrayals from Rohit Basfore and Kalpana Jha, while Yash Saraf acts the conman slickly.
Bindu Jaiswal’s fresh adaptation of Priestley truncates the script quite a bit, losing some of his sophisticated analysis of human nature. And she does not pay close attention to the plausibility of details, such as contemporary telephony, which renders landline use obsolete. Sheo Kumar Jhunjhunwala’s direction also slips up by costuming the inspector in formal Western suit and hat, smoking a pipe – I cannot see any Indian police officer, Singh or non-Singh, wearing or doing this on a duty call. The family should have smelt a rat immediately. However, the cast perform credibly, particularly Anjum Rizvi (the head of household) and Juhi Mullick (the victim), and Jhunjhunwala’s set is attractive as always.
(From The Times of India, 26 April 2019)