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Bitter truth: Citizenship on stage

Chakdaha Natyajan’s 'Pardeshi' pushes us out of our comfort zone
A moment from Chakdaha Natyajan’s Pardeshi
A moment from Chakdaha Natyajan’s Pardeshi
Anshuman Bhowmick

Anshuman Bhowmick   |   Published 07.01.22, 11:58 PM

The pandemic has successfully shifted our attention from some of the crises that an Indian citizen faces under the current regime — the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 tops the list. Although it was an important factor in the local electoral battles over the last couple of years, it has elicited a muted response from Bengali proscenium theatre so far. Chakdaha Natyajan’s Pardeshi stems the tide. Written by Tirthankar Chanda, a Halisahar resident who hails from Silchar — the nerve-centre of the outcry over the CAA — here is a drama that impels us to step out of our comfort zone.

Chanda explores the ground reality in the areas around the Indo-Bangladesh border where infiltration is an everyday reality, migration is a necessity and vigilance is all about crude manoeuvrings. The publication of a preliminary National Register of Citizens list transforms the scenario. With local chieftains calling the shots and communal harmony disturbed, elderly Malati (Suranjana Dasgupta) finds the going getting tough. When a family member’s name is omitted and the neighbourhood starts looking different overnight, her nerves start giving in. Urgent medical needs bring her to Calcutta where her childhood mate, Supriyo (Prabir Dutta), leads a comfortable, middle-class life. While Supriyo is ready to offer her all possible support, his wife (Aditi Lahiri) and daughter (Saily Dutta) resist. As the drama moves back and forth, Chanda exposes the chilling nonchalance of ‘bhadralok’ Calcutta towards the people facing detention and other dreadful measures. ‘Otherness’ gains a new dimension.

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The guest director, Debobrata Banerjee, displays maturity in handling the dual world and exploring the tension between the two. The village scenes throb with passion, the urban drawing room looks convincing most of the time and the ones at the check-post, where the politicians and the border forces bare their fangs, look menacing as they progress. The ending takes our heart away. Dasgupta’s role lacked meat but she manages to hold fort with her commanding presence and singing prowess. Prabir impresses in an author-backed part. Pardeshi was premiered at Girish Mancha on November 29. With the crisis far from over, it looks poised for greater heights.



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