Edmond Rostand


We have another Bengali adaptation of world-famous French drama, this time Minerva Repertory Theatre’s Nāsikā Purān, based on Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac (1897), the very last flourish of European high Romanticism.


Ashok Mukhopadhyay undertook the arduous task of adapting this long historical play in rhyming couplets, succeeding for the most part. He transplants Rostand’s nationalistic tribute to the French grand siecle, or glorious 17th century, into 7th-century Gaur Banga when Bengal first became a major kingdom under Sasanka Dev, and chooses the coronation of Sasanka’s heir as the corresponding period of conflict with Banga attacked from east and west (Harsha of Kanauj, wrongly located in Bihar in the scrolling preamble on screen). He names his hero Sasadhar, evoking Cyrano’s bond with the moon, and Roxane (wrongly identified as Rozan in the handout) becomes Ranjabati.


The real mess occurs in director Biplab Bandyopadhyay’s neglect of research in transferring the script to the stage. I have always upheld the need for dramaturgy in Indian theatre, and here is a prime example where a government-funded repertory can afford to appoint a consultant dramaturge who would have corrected not only egregious errors like those above, but also fundamental anachronisms that demolish the production’s verisimilitude. Namely, costumes and dances that emerged in the medieval age; references to cannons in war, which came to India later (unless you believe in the epics as fact); or even pineapples, introduced as late as colonial times by the Portuguese.


Bandyopadhyay should curtail the endless festivities in Act 1, to cut to the chase. Otherwise, he blocks the ensemble well collectively, and the 26 personnel put their souls into their performances. One must applaud Buddhadev Das for capturing Sasadar’s panache – the word that Cyrano gave to English – though he emphasizes Cyrano’s romantic more than ironic quality. Nibedita Bhattacharjee fits Ranjabati’s role as the unknowing object of his unrequited love. Among the supporting cast, Partha Sarathi Sarkar gives the priest an individualized touch. Bishwanath Dey has designed an imaginative yet functionally mobile set. But I hope I’ve seen the last cloth-climbing acrobatics in Bengali theatre for some time: everyone seems to do it now.


(From The Times of India, 7 February 2020)