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Of virtue and naivete

Many of Mohit Chattopadhyaya’s recent plays revolve round the character of an ordinary man at a loss in an increasingly callous and complicated society. Large-hearted but too simple or good to survive in a cut-throat world, this Everyman figure has his normality questioned by all close to him. They are abnormal and he the human exception, Chattopadhyaya suggests subtly. Of course, Bengali theatre has seen similar drama from Chetana’s Jagannath to Samstab’s Gunadharer Asukh, but Chattopadhyaya specialises in them — like Mangalik’s Harun al-Rashid.

Here, a retired man feels pain at others’ sorrow, and goes out on a limb to help them. He shelters his neighbour’s wife from her husband’s beatings, whereas most people would look the other way and not get involved.

Naturally, his own wife is at her wit’s end. Moreover, of late he has started talking to the legendary caliph of Baghdad (shades of Mary Chase’s Harvey). Director Samir Biswas, after his continuing success with Mangalik’s Manush Bhut, acts the lead in a marvellous mix of virtue and naivete.

Kaberi Basu does justice to the role of his harried wife. The pugilistic neighbour receives aptly aggressive treatment from Biplab Bhattacharya. Fittingly, Arun Mukherjee (creator of Jagannath) performs a cameo as the eccentric shrink who diagnoses nothing wrong with the protagonist. However, Chattopadhyaya prolongs an essentially short play into a full-length one, a general complaint about his later work.

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