Bengali theatre’s deep-seated leftist politics resurfaces with uneven results in three productions from outside the city. Bandel Arohi’s Rāt Kato Holo leaves the strongest impact precisely because it treats the subject with fragility rather than heavy-handedly. Amitabha Chakrabarti, their accomplished yet low-profile resident dramatist, writes of estranged brothers who meet after many years and spend the night talking. The older sibling participated in grass-roots Communism, working with peasants and labourers, and living simply; the younger became a successful actor and proudly regards himself as an artist-intellectual, though now out of favour in the corridors of power. Their irreconcilable differences erupt again, but by including no other character, Chakrabarti gives their thoughts ample space for Prabir Datta and Ranjan Roy (see photo) to explore exhaustively through his effortlessly natural dialogue, enabling Roy to direct a finely-balanced mood piece grounded in current reality.
In contrast, Hate Khari (Belgharia) takes an openly partisan stand in Cumulo-nimbus, romanticizing the Naxal movement like many Bengalis still do, ignoring its senseless violence. Himadri Sekhar Dey’s play features an old father who had joined the rebellion, at loggerheads with but dependent on his materialistic son today. The latter’s wife moderates between them, but sympathizes with her father-in-law. Despite Bindiya Ghosh’s good acting, director Debasish Ghosh Dastidar cannot save this script from Biswajit Das’s loud railing and polemics as the father, which works counter-productively, alienating us to see the son (Dey)’s point of view instead.
Another kind of triangle appears in Sesh Sringa by Smaranik (Bengaluru), involving a poet, his wife and a revolutionary friend of theirs who went underground decades ago to escape the police. A sense of guilt drives the poet to disappear in search of him regularly, and go incommunicado for long periods. I believe Amar Mitra intended this drama symbolically, but Sayandeb Bhattacharya directs it literally, converting it into a cross between a love intrigue and a mystery about what happens to the two men. Consequently, Bhattacharya himself in the lead, Supti Basu and Saikat Das get trapped in representational acting when they should have adopted a more stylized presentation as in Ibsen’s When We Dead Awaken.
(From The Times of India, 20 December 2019)