Chhoona mat. Khana mat dena,
Kalakari se hosh udh jaaye toh chasma pehen lena
Chhoona mat. Pani mat dena,
Rongte khade ho jaye
Toh Facebook pe status likh dena
At first these lyrical lines, sang with a high sense of energy, hardly makes any sense but as the musical Rangapeeth, by The Stage Door, progresses you realise that it’s not just a work of art but resistance as well. Resistance against all the things that is wrong in our society and all the things that have been normalised. For the old-school audience, the production directed by Rijita Chatterjee, who has a powerful presence on the stage as Laali, might be too much as she has used expletives in the song that becomes an anthem and catches on you and makes you join them in the resistance, silently. “Everything that I create for the stage I want to reach out in a way that people hum it even after the show. In some form, some kind of normalising of everyday slang in theatre is important so that the eliteness goes away; the snobbery of art and culture goes away. And this is very important to us.”
In the play, the narrative is pushed by a group of performers known as Chalta Firta Natak Company from a hamlet. And something strange happens every time they perform — someone dies. And it is with these deaths, on the stage and in the audience, from the kalakaar jaat and darshak jaat, that the dark reality of caste-based violence, rape and other malice thriving in the society are brought to the fore with stories inspired by real life. At times they give you a chill down your spine. For instance, the rape scene, projected well with the interplay of lights (designed by Sasanka Mondal). The agonising cry of a child dying, again and again throughout the play, makes one more aware, and keeps bringing us back to reality.
Snapshot of Rangapeethby The Stage Door
The set, designed by Bilu Dutta, that wore a morbid look with a human form hanging from the ceiling illuminated by a red light, would come alive with the performance every now and then that blurred the lines between reality and stage performance. The presence of a reporter in the narrative to observe the uncanny situation also reflected today’s media. Live music by Soumitra Banerjee, Kundal Mondal, Amit Banerjee and sound by Asit Kumar Das add to the character of the play.
A production like this requires improvisation and Rijita tells us how she and the other actors used their own stories to add to the play. “I have convinced myself that through the fragments of building a narrative the wholesome giant of a story evolves. The narrative revolves around various performative ideals and nuances which in reality take shape through improvised techniques. The whole play is an act of memory, memory itself historically is the genetic rubric of legacy and meaning making. The personal is always political, at least in theatre and ever so gracefully we the performers learn how to rage through constructing narratives. Rangapeeth symbolises that there might be an arc separating the audience space from that of the performers, to blur that distinction is an act of courage, and an act of fraternity,” said Rijita, informing that Rangapeeth will have at least 10 more screenings.