Sadhabār Ekādashi

Group: Nat-ranga

Director: Sohan Bandopadhyay

Dramatist: Dinabandhu Mitra



Group: Prachya

Director: Biplab Bandyopadhyay

Dramatist: Henrik Ibsen


Two 19th-century classics of social realism return to the Bengali stage – one comic, the other tragic; one from our own hometown, the other from distant Norway. Theatre historians credit both with the beginnings of modern drama in their respective languages.


Nat-ranga revives Dinabandhu Mitra’s Sadhabār Ekādashi (1866, premiered by Girish Ghosh in 1868) with lavish and detailed care, recreating the context of the time authentically, down to a pink handbill in period Bengali spelling. The satire on Young Bengal slavishly aping British mores, but amounting to nothing more than wining and womanizing, remains fresh, especially as seen through the cynical eyes of Nimchand, portrayed by Sohan Bandopadhyay looking as Gairish as possible. But if, as director, he wants to critique the similar present proclivities of bourgeois Bengalis, the antiquarian style may not work, despite his brief explanatory comments. As with Shakespeare today, original text coupled with contemporary design makes viewers connect more clearly.


Bandopadhyay retains Mitra’s full dramatis personae and the actors carry off their parts with aplomb, though he should excise the politically-incorrect characterization of the Bangal, Ram Manikya.


Prachya’s Khelāghar relocates Ibsen’s Doll’s House (1879) to Santiniketan in Ratan Kumar Das’s adaptation, which proves that it still speaks to us regardless of milieu. Helmer’s equivalent here has just become a full-time professor. Das strips the play to its five essential characters, omitting the service staff and children, while director Biplab Bandyopadhyay edits it further to meet audience expectations of time. Uncommonly for Bengali theatre, he does not allow the cast any emotional overdose, capturing the Ibsenian tone of gravity.


Chaiti Ghoshal and Debshankar Haldar respect Ibsen’s lines and complement each other: she does not turn Nora into a naïve ingenue, but maintains an innate dignity throughout; he does not make Helmer too overbearing, yet patronizes her in the facetious way he encourages her to laugh. Bandyopadhyay (Dr Rank) should place his self-revelation to Nora in near-darkness, mirroring her state of mind. Anjana Basu and Shantanu Chattopadhyay give natural performances as her friend and blackmailer respectively. I like Ranjit Deb’s use of screens on which eerie backlit shadows fall of people at the front door.


(From The Times of India, 5 July 2019)