Monday, 30th October 2017

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Society through keen eyes: two plays, two case studies

THEATRE: Two recent Bengali productions take us through the dark alleyways of society

By Anshuman Bhowmick
  • Published 4.04.20, 7:51 PM
  • Updated 4.04.20, 8:07 PM
  • a min read
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A moment fromMatilal Padr at the Academy of Fine Arts. Anshuman Bhowmick

Of late, the criminalization of public spaces in rural West Bengal is being reflected in recent Bengali drama from Calcutta. Bijoygarh Monpran’s Bishprahar, roughly translated as Poisoned Times, is one such case study. Penned by Sanjoy Chattopadhyay, a familiar name in the suburban theatre circuit, this short play is set in Jhaugachhi, a nondescript village located at a comfortable distance from the porous Indo-Bangladesh border.

As a cycle-mechanic falls prey to a smuggling racket and gets killed under mysterious circumstances, his wife, Shakila (Soumita), starts getting all sorts of attention. While the media keep pestering her, the local thugs keep looking for a missing drug parcel and most of the village folk keep mum, a group of sympathetic villagers, led by a local school teacher (Biswarup Purakayastha) form a protective ring around her.

Bishprahar ends rather abruptly with the abduction of the teacher. Nonetheless, it looks convincing enough and menacing towards the end. The director, Biman Banerjee, must be lauded for leading this ensemble act and pulling off a credible show at Jogesh Mime Academy on February 15. Apart from a sensitive Soumita, credible performances came from Aftab and Panna.

Mangalik revisited Matilal Padri after a few decades. Sekhar Samaddar’s adaptation of a Kamal Kumar Majumdar story set in Santal Parganas before the Partition addresses some key issues concerning the practice of institutional religions among the underprivileged.

Matilal, a second-generation Christian missionary of Indian origin who swore allegiance to Catholicism finds himself in troubled waters when a heavily pregnant woman knocks on his door and gives birth to a boy.

Samaddar ably dramatizes the subject matter with an eye for conflict, but makes a mountain out of molehill with the child. The director, Samir Biswas, who also enacts the missionary with an understated presence and strikes a fine balance between the carnal and divine, utilizes Mangalik’s limited resources. Although the set and make-up left much to be desired, the community scenes were vividly sketched and the tension over the true identity of the woman was handled with precision.