The minuscule Tripti Mitra Natyagriha has become a go-to site for small-scale and experimental Bengali theatre that flowers in close quarters rather than on the proscenium stage. Two productions there helmed by two Bandyopadhyays both foregrounded a narrator telling us a story.
I have previously sung the praises of the young director Suvojit Bandyopadhyay as a name to reckon with in future. I must redouble this opinion after watching his group, Theatre Shine (from Dankuni), present Tagore’s Postmaster. His vivid aesthetics combines with textual fidelity and Souvik Halder’s full musical ensemble (vocals, sarod, sitar, dotara, violin, tabla, khol, cajon, percussion) in so cramped a space for a most moving experience. The set resembles a toy theatre as children like to play with: a low table on which the storyteller places figurines, paper boats, models of trees and the post office as the scene demands. At the back, two green-room mirrors with lights on their frames reflect the actors, Ratan and the postmaster, respectively. Ananya Ghosh uses Suvojit’s signature of mainly LED bulbs for precise lighting.
In this ambience, Puja Bhattacharya sits at the table (see photo) and articulates Tagore’s classic short story verbatim—a feat in itself—while Erina Bhowmick (an intense Ratan) and Sourav Chakraborty (Postmaster) move behind her, enacting their own sequences and speaking Tagore’s direct-speech lines written for their characters. Suvojit interpolates a few appropriate Rabindrasangit sung live to complement the prose. Taking only 45 minutes, Postmaster cries out for invitations from schools as an exemplar to younger viewers of how to reimagine theatre.
Sanyogsutra’s Jyājāmashāi, written and directed by Sumitro Bandyopadhyay, employs a first-person narrative in which an unemployed man recounts his close relationship with his paternal uncle from his childhood in the 1980s upto the present. Sumitro’s penchant for Kolkata history gets free rein, but more importantly, the love and interdependence of nephew and Jyatha evoke a touching resonance. Aniruddha Ghosh acts the latter role (photo) outstandingly, shifting between affection, disciplinarianism and senescence accompanied by suitable costume changes. Sumitro has a disarming air as the nephew.
However, like most Bengali directors, Sumitro utilizes this venue conventionally as a miniature proscenium stage, replete with wings on both sides and audience in front. This denies the various possibilities of intimate theatre in-the-round. The pictures and posters pasted on the wings and back wall look tacky, an apology for a set, besides most of them being visibly unidentifiable due to their small size, defeating their associative intentions. The best locales for Jyājāmashāi would be Kolkata’s old houses, which could host it naturalistically as site-specific performances.