Big problems

Theatre

By Ananda Lal
  • Published 9.06.18
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Pic by Santanu Saha

Both of the most prolific writers for the Bengali theatre today have composed plays on the oppression of women starring three famous female characters in each.

Tirthankar Chanda takes the metatheatrical route in Nandipat's Arshi, where a contemporary woman dramatist drafts a script showing the sexist attitudes of male directors that constricted the independence of three celebrated actresses: Binodini (Monalisa Chattopadhyay), Prabhabati (Sulakshana Saha) and she who shall remain unnamed because Chanda does not use her real name (why not, one wonders) though everyone can recognize this leading lady of the 1960s (Sanjita Mukherjee). Spectators who do not know their biographies can expect to learn much about the discrimination that stage heroines continued to face in three different periods, as well as the brave departures each took as individuals. Unexpectedly, however, the current author (Sarbani Bhattacharya) realizes gradually in her life that the more conditions appear to change, the more they actually stay the same. Prokash Bhattacharya draws strong performances from the stars of the past (picture), but we don't get to see much evidence of why these ladies became stars; he should encourage the cast to display in their role-playing a greater range of the changing styles of acting.

Ujjwal Chattopadhyay revisits mythology and history in Chakdah Natyajan's Tin Mohana. He colours Krishna as patriarchal, wanting power over all women and deluding them, through the abject surrender of Radha (Nandini Bhaumik), Chandravali (Aditi Lahiri) and Mirabai (Sanjita). We have no issues with his unusual argument, but do find the choice of devotees unequal. Two gopinis and one historical personality create an imbalanced sampling, while Chandravali hardly ranks on the same level as the others. As director and actor of the tyrant Kansa, who also wants to possess the heroines, Kamal Chattopadhyay gets trapped in his own undoing: his comic flair rubs off on Kansa's villainy, making the latter look quite foolish. If so, then toppling male chauvinism would be a piece of cake. Thus the ridiculous Kansa and the miserable Krishna cut sorry companion figures when the Shakti-women join hands.