Group: Chidakash Kalalaya

Director: Piyal Bhattacharya


Samvatsar Kathā

Text from Kalidasa, Jayadeva



Attributed to Sudraka


Chidakash Kalalaya pursues prodigiously its unique project of resurrecting Sanskrit forms, directed by Piyal Bhattacharya. After bhanika last year, it turned to another uparupaka or minor genre, the ramakrida, earlier this year, and creatively rebirthed it under the title Samvatsar Kathā, since treatises define ramakrida as a depiction of the seasons. What better text to adopt for this theme than Kalidasa’s Ritusamhāra? To it, Bhattacharya adds elements from the Gita Govinda and an Upanishadic closure. Ironically, since most of us know no Sanskrit, we have to fall back on the audiovisual experience to savour its rasa, simultaneously beautiful and sensitive to nature.


Bhattacharya chooses apt ragas for each season: Vrindavani Sarang for the sharps of summer on the extinct mattakokila vina that he rediscovered in Myanmar, Megh for the rains on a reconstructed dhrupadi rubab and four percussion instruments, the Carnatic Revati with temple chimes for Devi’s autumnal advent, Bihag for the lovelorn viraha of the dewy months, a noisy bazaar ambience in winter, and obviously Vasant for romantic spring. He revels in the look and feel of āhārya: all costumes handwoven at the Gandhi Mission Khadi Centre, Aurangabad, and coloured with herbal dyes to match the season following Ragamala paintings. The sola artisan Anup Halder designed the props.


The actresses jointly embody Prakriti’s shakti, and perhaps should share the individually personified seasons equally with the men. The winter character, an old vita or stereotypical knave, crosses over into Chidakash’s latest production, Padma-prabhritakam, because in the latter the playwright had named the vita Samvatsar. Here, too, I suggest that an actress alternate in the role, as the group has so many talented ladies.


Padma-prabhritakam, attributed to Raja Sudraka, exemplifies the major Sanskrit form of bhāna, the satirical monodrama. Its content troubles me because, true to royal polygamy, it supports and justifies the king’s desire for his sister-in-law, unacceptable today. Bhattacharya therefore wisely leaves their union unresolved. Probably he should infuse more mockery at such adulterous liaisons and paint a more dissolute monarch.


The star is unquestionably the monologist, Sayak Mitra, playing all the parts, especially those of the many hypocrites he meets. But he can cultivate the recommended dhurta personality more, and greater derision. He even delivers three languages proficiently, as Bhattacharya applies the classical technique of using mother tongues appropriately beside Sanskrit: the Vaishnava and Buddhist clients in the red-light district speak Brajabhasha and Pali respectively. However, Bhattacharya must facilitate our comprehension somehow. He should next try one of Mahendravikrama’s hilarious prahasanas.


(From The Times of India, 31 May 2019)