Rangakarmee’s Binodini Keya Mancha continues as an alternative venue, hosting intimate theatre regularly. Let’s look at some recent short plays there.
Antarmukh’s Mrityu Upatyakā in Bengali shocks spectators with its opening scene of a would-be suicide halted by the dramatist-director Soumitra Basu intervening to press the pause button. Flashback then reveals the cause: the corrupt politics of higher education that demands all kinds of payoffs to facilitate an unempowered candidate’s college admission. Viewers may doubt it as exaggeration, but those who belonged to academia, like Basu and yours truly, can vouch for its veracity. We may argue that the victim overreacts to a student leader’s act of tearing up his marksheet, in this age of easier access to duplicate copies, but we cannot deny the group’s voice of protest and forceful performances.
Equally potent for a young audience, Gobardanga Naksha’s Yes presents fresh National School of Drama graduate Bhumisuta Das in a solo on the difficulties faced by single women working in big cities. A shop assistant in a mall, she lives in a chawl where the bathroom window does not close, and falls prey to a voyeur’s camera, with unfortunate consequences. Das uses Hindi, not her mother tongue, which shows, but she expresses her character’s plight and anger effectively, and as director details the interior mise-en-scene minutely. She could easily expand undeveloped parts of her script by another 20 minutes or so, to make it more complex and the conclusion less abrupt.
Rangakarmee’s own workshop-based production in Hindi of Kalidasa’s Meghdutam gains from director Piyal Bhattacharya’s classical Sanskrit aesthetics to evoke the viraha of separated lovers gracefully. However, it suffers from co-director Sangeeta Gundecha’s curtailed text. Kalidasa halves his poem into two dimensions, the natural and the human, the former concentrated on the cloud flying over north India and the latter dwelling mainly on Alaka after it arrives at the lovers’ home there. Gundecha wrongly sacrifices much of the first half, which describes lyrically a biodiverse yet unifying geographical panorama; thus she gives precedence to events over poetry. Nevertheless, studio spaces allow us to savour Bhattacharya’s sensuous artistry, colour palette and live music with greater immediacy.
(From The Times of India, 24 January 2020)