Way of all flesh

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By MOHUA DAS
  • Published 28.05.09
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Swapnasandhani’s new production travels through the squalid rooms and alleys of Calcutta’s biggest red-light district Sonagachhi. But the tale of Darjiparar Marjinara, written by Bratya Basu and directed by Koushik Sen, goes beyond sex workers and the flesh trade to hold a mirror to civilised society. Koushik tells t2 about the multi-layered play...

What is the basic framework of Darjiparar Marjinara?

The play moves through the lanes and bylanes of Sonagachhi as the place, its history and secrets are slowly revealed through the prostitutes, their customers and their stories. You get a glimpse of the socio-political ups and downs in the different sections of Sonagachhi. But it is not a play on prostitution. It is about globalisation — how even a creative person or an artiste is treated like a prostitute in society. The playwright feels that consumerism is like prostitution, a free market where everything can be bought and sold.

Why did you take up this play?

I love doing verse plays. When you depict a world that is cruel and violent, the subject is conveyed better when written in verse. Swapnasandhani has done plays by Brecht, Chekov, Premchand and others but none of our plays are alike. The genre of Darjiparar Marjinara is unlike any of the plays Bratya has written before. He has seen this area from a very different angle.

What’s special about the narrative?

There’s no single track. The story involves five prostitutes and their encounters with different customers, exploring the prostitutes’ lives as well as the animal instinct in men. The play starts with a verse from Girish Ghosh’s Billo Mangal Thakur where Billo Mangal is an upper middle-class man falling in love with a prostitute. The story is narrated by an ageing man who is a veteran actor and has lived around that area for a long time, while his listener is a curious young journalist. We’re not trying to raise or question any issues. There’s a lot of slang and bold sentences. The director’s task is to train the actors in a manner that will help retain the poetic charm of the dialogues.

Is the play dark and brooding?

Not at all. It’s a gorgeous production. I’ve taken elements from popular culture. We have used songs by Chandrabindoo and Kabir Suman. You also get to hear songs from Gulaal and Bunty Aur Babli. The actors will sing thumri, folk songs and Rabindrasangeet on stage. The songs are like a chorus in the background and take on a different meaning.

What’s the set design?

Male and female parts have been used and fused with urban elements like refrigerator parts or plastic waste baskets. The set has been designed by Sanchayan Ghosh and lights are by Ashok Pramanik. The sets and lights depict the bright side as well as the dark and gloomy side of the prostitutes’ lives. Animal sounds have been used on purpose during times of fights and tussles to highlight the ferocious side of society.

What about the cast?

There will be 23 characters on stage. Apart from the regular Swapnasandhani members, there’s Debatosh Ghosh, a long-time associate of Bohurupee who is playing the narrator, and Kanchan Mullick, who is playing a pimp. I play a businessman who is impotent and tries to combat his impotency by blaming everyone around him.

(Darjiparar Marjinara opens at Sujata Sadan on May 29, 7pm.)