Group: Sansriti

Director: Debesh Chattopadhyay

Dramatist: Luigi Pirandello


As reported in this column already, Pirandello has stormed the Bengali stage with three productions this year. Aneek’s biodrama Pirandello o Puppeteer was followed by Sayak’s adaptation Bhālo Lok and now, Sansriti’s Kothākār Charitra Kothāy Rekhechho, which in terms of fidelity far surpasses most Indian renditions of foreign classics. The source, despite the somewhat askew title, is Six Characters in Search of an Author, one of the modernist masterpieces.


Metatheatre – plays within plays – existed previously, but when Pirandello’s sextet walked into the auditorium, punched through the imaginary fourth wall and interrupted a rehearsal onstage, it inspired theatre internationally. The first audience in Rome, in 1921, rioted because they felt cheated, as it broke all their conventional perceptions of theatre. A century later, a local online review of Sansriti’s production amused me, since the blogger expressed displeasure that it did not meet his (rather stereotypical) expectations!


But Six Characters does not just play games, riddling us with the performance of truth against the truth of performance. It embeds philosophy about elusive human identity, social compulsions on constructing self, relativity of values, the fragmentary nature of reality, life versus art, the constant flux of existence – as mathematician-philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote, “no man differs more from another than he does from himself at another time”.


Pirandello himself affirmed, “All that lives has a form, which must also die – except art, which lives forever because it is form.” He loved theatre because, like life, it changes and has to die; it has no permanent form like other arts. Debesh Chattopadhyay’s directorial process impressed me by its Pirandellian quality – he says he did not give the cast a specific script, but improvised the scenes and transcribed the results at the end of each day – yet remained remarkably true to the original.


However, he credits Rudraprasad Sengupta, for the famous Bengali adaptation based on Edward Storer’s outdated translation of the 1921 edition. In recent years, many translations have appeared of Pirandello’s much better, more theatrical 1925 revision – which Chattopadhyay refers to. As default, Indians should always consult new translations, for they aim to transfer texts completely and transparently. Old translators often misled us.


From the top, with carpentry sounds and backstage chatter but no formal start, to the chaotic close amidst maniacal laughter and supernatural lighting, the team creates a memorable experience led by Ashim Raychowdhury (the guilt-laden Father), Monalisa Chatterjee (the timid-turned-fiery Stepdaughter, in photo) and Abhra Mukhopadhyay (the nonplussed Director). Chattopadhyay could gainfully utilize Pirandello’s revised stage directions in masking the Characters (in my own production, I used facial paint) and in making Madame Pace’s entry sensationally magical.


(From The Times of India, 26 July 2019)