Two non-resident Calcatians with deep roots in the city offered their latest theatrical work to home crowds. Sudipta Bhawmik, who runs ECTA in New Jersey, had impressed us with his Bengali plays staged here in the past by Ethnomedia (also from New Jersey), especially the antiwar Ron (2006). In Satyameva (2007), he had critiqued American capitalistic globalization. This time, in ECTA’s Banijye Basate Lakshmi (presented by SEPA Theatrics), he turns Satyameva on its head, by asking why Bengalis condescend to business as a profession.
In this one-man show, Bhawmik himself enacts Gagan Goswami (picture), an eminent motivational speaker invited to lecture on entrepreneurship. Goswami’s bestselling book Ka-e Kenabecha declares that the initial consonant ka holds the clue to succeed in business, and proceeds to tell his audience how — a solo Bengali variation on the stinging musical, How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying. Alternating between humour and insight, Bhawmik candidly describes Bengalis as obsessed with regular 9 to 5 jobs and salaries, looking askance at any other form of employment. Yet the same Bengalis, paradoxically, revere poets and artists. Goswami delves into his own experience, anecdotally substantiating his stand, culminating in perhaps too simple an answer: everyone must know why they choose whatever they do. Under Sankar Ghoshal’s direction, Bhawmik holds our attention for 90 minutes with virtually no props for support, and only occasional lapses in concentration and words.
Padatik’s New Market, Old Tales, presented by Kolkata Literary Meet in the parking lot outside New Market, was a fiasco waiting to happen. Nobody should try site-specific or found-space theatre without failsafe checks on all technical input. For a director like Jayant Kripalani — who has taught me much — to not exercise this control embarrassed, to say the least, as did his attempt to excuse failings in the name of experimentation. Not even beginners would test the patience of spectators by starting half an hour late, to the bandleader’s noisy bawls of “benjo!” for the inaudible banjoist. A noticeably flustered Kripalani told him off over the mike. Several public tantrums followed, which showed that the madness he had planned had gone way out of hand. The one-hour production had little other drama to commend it. The most creative sparks came from outside Kripalani’s text: Genex’s mesmerizing sand art projected on the screen, and Rana Basu Thakur’s New Market rap. In fine, an evening gone to waste.