Group: Kalyani Natyacharcha Kendra

Dramatist: Ariel Dorfman and Tony Kushner

Director: Kishore Sengupta






Raktākta Jharokhā

Group: Kalyani Kalamandalam

Dramatist: Yasmine Beverly Rana

Director: Santanu Das



Whether consciously or coincidentally, the two main groups in Kalyani have translated into Bengali plays by American authors with roots outside the US, both foregrounding women in conflict zones. Natyacharcha Kendra’s Nadi-tā draws on the 1997 dramatization of Ariel Dorfman’s 1981 novel, Widows; and Kalamandalam’s Raktākta Jharokhā on Yasmine Beverly Rana’s The War Zone Is My Bed (2007).

Dorfman set Widows in Greece during World War II, but the play generalizes the location, with a new junta in control that could place it anywhere. Male villagers simply disappear after interrogation, through that terrible euphemism, “ethnic cleansing”. Then corpses come floating down the river, for the womenfolk to claim them, even though unidentifiable. No doubt a horrifying scenario, but despite the seasoned hand of Tony Kushner as co-scripter, it doesn’t quite work as drama mainly because of plot predictability, especially the body of Jemima’s husband washing up. Also, a rather unbelievable act of military insubordination where a lieutenant wilfully disobeys his superior, the ethical Captain. Kishore Sengupta directs the peasant women into a body of resistance recalling Greek tragedies on war as well as Garcia Lorca (who must have inspired Dorfman).


Raktākta Jharokhā presents three scenes. In 1994, a foreign journalist in civil-war Sarajevo has an extramarital affair with a local woman; in 2001, a Taliban in Kabul gets romantically involved with a prostitute. Four years later, the first woman writes a book on the latter relationship which makes her famous, and by chance she meets her journalist lover again. While Rana examines the exploitative nature of trauma reportage at different levels, her play, like Widows, has a structure by which we can tell that the two stories must intersect finally. Santanu Das directs the first episode as an abnormally violent sexual encounter echoing the conflict outside; the second, on the other hand, is riddled with fear of discovery. The characterizations (Monalisa Chatterjee and Sudipta Datta in Bosnia, Ananya Das and Raju Bera in Afghanistan) contrast accordingly.

Both plays, although topical and therefore well worth our support, ultimately suffer from the transparency of their mechanics.