Group: Anjan Dutt Production

Director: Anjan Dutt

Dramatist: Arthur Miller


Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman ranks very high among essential plays of the 20th century. In one end-of-the-millennium poll, critics placed it at the top, alongside Waiting for Godot. I believe that it carries even more importance now in India than it did exactly 70 years ago, because in our mad recent rush to catch up with modernization, we have slavishly adopted the capitalistic system that Miller had warned Americans against. So I used to teach it as a compulsory text at the undergraduate level.


It gives me hope for our future that someone else agrees. Anjan Dutt writes in his directorial note to Anjan Dutt Production’s Salesman-er Sangsār: “the crisis is far more relevant to my Bengali society … All of us are caught in the same trap of Willy Loman in our chase for success defined by … material wealth.” I see salespeople everywhere around me, hounded by social expectations and their bosses’ quota pressures. As Charley tells Willy, “The only thing you got in this world is what you can sell … the funny thing is that you’re a salesman, and you don’t know that.”


Dutt has cut Charley and all other supporting characters except the boss and the Woman from his translation in order to fit our present attention spans, but has been faithful to Miller in his fashion. By not Indianizing it and by inserting monologues addressing us, he honours his personal allegiance to Brecht, distancing the parable so that we come to our own cerebral conclusions. The only structural slip occurs at the start: he opens with Willy’s affair, giving away the surprise of the one big mistake that Willy made, which destroyed his relationship with his son. Dutt must postpone this revelation to its proper place. He also conflates the Woman with the sons’ casual flings unnecessarily.


He enacts Willy as an old, exhausted rambler inhabiting a dream world, yet sharply aware of his financial responsibilities as a father. Sudipa Basu finally gets a role that she can maximize: the wife and mother who has to constantly patch peace among the three men in her family. Suprobhat and Suhotra Mukhopadhyay perform the sons as understandably distressed. But Dutt may want to turn down the melodrama in the last scene. Anirban Chakrabarti’s unusually restrained portrayal of the boss makes us sympathetic to his perspective.


I hope Salesman-er Sangsār continues its run: it is a must-see for thinking audiences, especially our young generation.


(From The Times of India, 17 May 2019)