Group: Rangroop

Director and dramatizer: Sima Mukhopadhyay

Source: Sayantani Putatunda

Recommended: ★★★★















Rām Udhāo

Group: Mangolik

Dramatist-director: Samir Biswas


Continuing to combat religious oppression of the underprivileged, Bengali theatre fights relentlessly against exploitation in all its forms. In narrowing the focus to violence against women in rural areas, two groups appeal simultaneously to the symbolic Hindu idealism in the titles of their productions: Rangroop’s Swāhā and Mangolik’s Rām Udhāo.

Director Sima Mukhopadhyay dramatizes Swāhā from Sayantani Putatunda’s story about a local superstition that chosen girls transform into “Jatadhari Kamini Ma” when their hair turns matted overnight, becoming living deities while their relatives reap the profits of their worship. In her directorial note, she points out to us sardonically that Swaha is the name of Agni’s consort and a divinity in her own right (of Vedic sacrifices, in fact), so “How does the goddess feel when parents sacrifice their own daughter” to the lure of greed by deceit?

Led from the front by Mukhopadhyay herself (photo) in a complex portrait of the aging Jatadhari who wants to be relieved, the entire Rangroop team sustains the high standards of performance that we have come to expect from them in recent years. Susmita Pan deserves special praise as the youngest girl’s mother (photo, at the left) who understands how much her daughter can gain if she pursues her schooling. The play could have ended tragically, but instead offers the audience an inspiring conclusion about female empowerment.


With a different pitch, in director Samir Biswas’s self-composed Rām Udhāo, he steps out of his role at the end and tells us to provide a suitable finale. Through the title, he implies from the start that Rama has vanished from India, and any trace of the fabled Ramrajya along with him. The plot revolves round the search for an educated young Dalit woman, allegedly abducted by the ruffian son of the upper-caste panchayat head, an act witnessed by a boy named Ram, who has also gone missing. Meanwhile, flitting to and fro, the old teacher confronts villagers with lessons from India’s struggle for Independence, but none listens.

Biswas needs to curtail Act 1 by removing the excessive weeping and wailing of the woman’s parents, as well as all other instances of repetitive dialogue. That way, it can lead up quickly to the remarkably surprising developments in the much tighter Act 2. In terms of characterization, Sankar Saha evinces the most depth as the hypocritical headman.


14 June 2023