|A scene from Chhoto Chhoto Bari.
Picture by Anup Bhattacharya
Nothing has changed since Independence. If at all it has, it is for a very small minority, believes theatre veteran Bibhas Chakraborty.
“We have a long tradition of oppression, a nexus between criminals and rulers that creates an atmosphere of fear. It is the same all over India. Forget hopes and aspirations, just surviving unscathed is becoming impossible,” he said.
That fear finds a reflection in Chhoto Chhoto Bari, a play penned by Manoj Mitra in 2010, which Bibhas Chakraborty is directing for his group Anya Theatre. The production will premiere on September 1, at Madhusudan Mancha.
“The home — big or small — is a sacred symbol of the family unit, a close intimate space of an individual’s security and freedom of expression. But in Chhoto Chhoto Bari even that is under threat from land sharks and corrupt politicians,” explained the playwright.
The story revolves around Kanakchampa, who lived in a rambling mansion in Kashi but when her husband dies, she shifts to Calcutta and settles in a small dwelling dotting Marudaan, on the city outskirts.
Marudaan, true to its name, is an oasis in the wasteland for those of small means. For Kanak it is a dream come true — the greenery, the birds… she is old but happy and proud of her home. But predators start gathering at her door.
When Kanak’s son Bubai prepares to go abroad for a long period, they invade her home. In the guise of well-wishers and protectors, they dictate how the house could be better utilised accommodating people of their choice. It is the authorities who will decide on whom she can be charitable.
So Kanak cannot give shelter to Bindi the street food seller or refuse to take in a house guest of those in power.
“I love the bond that Kanak and Bindi share, despite coming from different strata of society. Both have been victims of abuse and they both decide to fight back,” said the director, adding that the playwright has delved into many other keenly felt issues of today, like the problem of the aged, their loneliness and sense of insecurity.
At a special preview at the Mohit Moitra Mancha in Paikpara, Chakraborty said: “I think I have directed the maximum number of Manoj Mitra plays till date. It is 40 years since I directed his Chakbhanga Madhu. Manoj’s 75th birthday is coming up, so I chose to do this play as a tribute.”
Kanak is being played by Krishna Dutta and Susmita Hati is Bindi. Apart from a slight editing of dialogue, the ending has been extended a little by the director “to give a more positive feel.”