Plays: This Year’s Performances
Our Voices – a play written and directed by Gargi Mukherjee and advised by Ricardo Khan, is about South Asian youth being caught between cultures, not being able to identify with any, or preferring one over the other, resulting in huge conflicts within the home and outside and ultimately getting trapped in a very confused state of being. This play attempts to give the South Asian youth a voice, whereby they can share their innermost struggles, thoughts and feelings and consequently find a platform to exchange ideas, collaborate with others toward the common goal of gaining a clearer understanding of who they are and how to celebrate their differences.
This play by Vivek Bele unfolds the budding romance between two unique and interesting people: Ninad, a successful marketing manager constantly experimenting with his brilliant business ideas, and Smita, a creative art designer curiously fascinated by animals. Both characters bring to this relationship their unique foibles and eccentricities. Beyond all, Smita is stuck in her fear and hesitates to take the first step to experience love despite Ninad’s futile attempts to impress her. But love conquers all and their minds conspire to bring them together!
Palok (The Protector)
This original Bengali play by Sudipta Bhawmik deftly tests the perennial boundaries and uncertainties of parental authority and influence. How valid is the debate that parenting is only a biological consequence and doesn’t necessitate more; what does it take to be a parent? When do a parent’s rights and responsibilities begin and when do they trespass on the rights of the individual? Every generation poses these difficult questions and each modulates it as there are no easy answers to fit or please all.
Nana Ronger Din
Anton Chekhov wrote Swan Song in 1887. It was one of his early plays, written before the masterpieces he went on to create for the Moscow Art Theatre. However, even in this early text you see his genius shining through, making comedy out of tragedy, trivia out of catastrophe. Swan Song has only two characters, a veteran 68 year old actor, who is well past his ‘best before’ date and another anonymous footsoldier of the theatre industry, an old ‘prompter’. Ajitesh Banerjee, the great Bengali thespian and playwright, adapted this little play into Bengali in the 1970s and made it a legendary production in the history of Bengali theatre. The old Russian actor in Chekhov’s play becomes Rajani Chatterjee, a once-famous actor (now relic) of the Bengali commercial stage. Following an evening performance of Shahjahan, unbeknownst to everyone, Rajani-babu falls asleep in a drunken blur in one of the dressing rooms. When he awakens, the theatre is dark and empty. He falls quickly into saddened monologue that he speaks to Kalinath, the old prompter, who is homeless and secretly sleeps in the theatre. While charting out the tragic tale of his own life, Rajani-babu pronounces a scathing judgment on the fake moralities and hypocrisies of society, as the night wears on….
This play served as a ‘life-saver’ in the early days of Epic Actors’ Workshop, coming to its rescue whenever the group was called in at short notice to perform for Bengali communities all over the East Coast. During this period, Sudipto Chatterjee and Prabir Basu performed this two-hander on innumerable occasions. This special revival, however, is bringing them back together after almost two decades.
Girish Karnad’s play Hayavadana has various cultural implications, which are relevant even today. A Man’s search for his own self among a web of complex relationships, Girish Karnad’s Hayavadana was influenced by Thomas Mann’s “The Transposed Heads”, which in turn is borrowed from one of the Sanskrit Kathasaritasagara stories. Culture defines society and Karnad’s plays are a reflection of the culture in our society. Focusing on our folk culture, he takes inspiration from mythology and folklore. With Hayavadana, Karnad has taken us back to the myths and legends of the Hindu religion.
Although written and produced over twenty years ago, Girish Karnad’s Hayavadana continues to delight and entertain audiences the world over even today. Based on myths and folk tales the main story is simple, witty, and insightful. At the heart of the plot is a love triangle like no Bollywood film ever imagined. Two devoted male friends are in love with the same charming woman. She is attracted to each of them but for very different reasons. As the play unfolds we wonder just who will win and who is destined to loose her affections? In the second act the woman discovers to her surprise that her choice has changed and that what she thought she was getting in no longer the man she wanted him to be. To conclude the story all three have learned and grown even if they find no satisfactory remedy for the choices they made. The main plot is derived from Thomas Mann’s novella, The Transposed Heads. Mann adapted the story from the Kathasaritsagara, an ancient collection of Sanskrit tales. Karnad discovered Mann’s work while studying at Oxford and saw its potentials for a play. He brackets the love triangle with a folk tale concerning a man who bemoans the fact that he is incomplete. When we meet the man during the final moments of the play his dilemma has been resolved but not in a way that he expected it to be. An opening prayer to Lord Ganesh aptly ties together both stories.
Dui Huzurer Gappo (The story of two masters)
Adapted in Bengali from Tales written by Russian satirist Mikhail Saltikav Schedrin, this play entertainingly elaborates on the dignity of Man’s work and the idealist principle that abstinence from work is a repugnant crime. Wit and humor cleverly reveal the perils of a greedy, modern bureaucracy despite the simple philosophy shared by the locals that the bounty of the Land is everyone’s equal right.