Rangroop’s latest plays deal with domestic life — the subject that Sima Mukhopadhyay directs so deftly —but take serious and light approaches respectively, to create a contrasting impact. Intriguingly in both cases, the protagonists are lacklustre husbands whose wives boss them around.
Mukhopadhyay pays homage to the departed master dramatist, Mohit Chattopadhyaya, by reviving his second play, Nil Ranger Ghora, from way back in 1964, almost a golden jubilee. Chattopadhyaya used to sadly reminisce that nobody staged his works in those early days, regarding them as unclassifiable, obscure and tough. Bengali theatre took some time to comprehend his style; now of course it poses no problem whatsoever. One of its difficulties lay in its sprawling poetic reach, which directors could not rein in satisfactorily. In fact, Mukhopadhyay has edited the original text quite a bit, but the introductory portions involving symbolic and fantasy characters still seem tenuously linked to the main narrative.
Chattopadhyaya loosely based Nil Ranger Ghora on D.H. Lawrence’s short story, “The Rocking-horse Winner”, in which a boy discovers that he can predict winning racehorses, and as a result lifts his family out of its dire pecuniary straits. Instead of the son, Chattopadhyaya gave the father this clairvoyant gift, and the materialistic wife and children rejoice, luxuriating in their newfound affluence. But the father grows increasingly reluctant to benefit from an unethical practice, while his past, especially an unfulfilled affair (picture), breaks into his present, disrupting his consciousness until the ironic final prophecy.
Bimal Chakrabarti portrays this mental disturbance with his extensive experience, though he keeps facing the audience frontally too often for my liking. In comparison, Mukhopadhyay herself as the wife breezes through her scenes more busily and naturally. Sanchayan Ghosh has designed a contorted set refracting the man’s mind.
Adhara Madhuri by Tirthankar Chanda, however, belongs to straight comedy. It, too, has a theme familiar in drama both East and West: a pair of husbands dominated by their wives each begins to appreciate the other’s spouse, until they eventually realize their own partner’s true qualities that they had relegated out of familiarity. Badal Sircar wrote Jadi Ar Ekbar on a related premise borrowed from J.M. Barrie’s Dear Brutus. Mukhopadhyay directs some funny moments and succeeds in entertaining with actors like seasoned comedian Kamal Chattopadhyay, but Chanda’s script itself never rises to any great heights that could make it memorable.