Stories from the margins

Khola Haoa, the annual theatre festival of Ashokenagar Nattyamukh, is nicknamed 'Far from the Madding Crowd'. The fifth edition (August 2-5), held at Gobardanga Sanskriti Kendra, scored from the margins by showcasing a wide variety of short-length works that Calcutta often fails to appreciate.

By Theatre - Anshuman Bhowmick
  • Published 8.09.18
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Khola Haoa, the annual theatre festival of Ashokenagar Nattyamukh, is nicknamed 'Far from the Madding Crowd'. The fifth edition (August 2-5), held at Gobardanga Sanskriti Kendra, scored from the margins by showcasing a wide variety of short-length works that Calcutta often fails to appreciate.

On the third evening, Angan Belgharia presented Phire Paowa (picture). Scripted by Baby Sengupta and directed by Avi Sengupta, who also essayed the lead couple, this slice-of-life drama, set in the northern fringes of Calcutta, celebrated the rollercoaster life of the second generation of Partition survivors. Never mincing a word, Phire Paowa keeps the 'Ghoti-Bangal' binary in check. It attempts a melodrama accentuated by the songs played in the background. The clichés about expatriate sons and elderly couples had a field day. But credible performances by the Senguptas and a strong supporting cast kept the audience hooked for a good 47 minutes. The honesty was evident.

Anya Theatre's Jagakhichuri zeroed on to a village primary school in West Bengal which recorded a zero literacy rate. Inspired by a story by Gopal Sarkar, this 35-minute drama found the veteran, Bibhash Chakraborty, at his comic best. Chakraborty creates a series of peculiar situations around an education inspector (Sujit Mukhopadhyay) and the one and only teacher (Kamal Chattopadhyay) who has mastered the art of preparing khichuri for the students. Without resorting to slapstick means, the maestro plays with words and employs a minimalist approach. Chattopadhyay's comic talent flowered under favourable circumstances. Jagakhichuri also demonstrated how to multiply the potential of a 1,200 square feet performing space to ensure an intimate dialogue with the audience. Kaliaganj Ananya Theatre's Hindi adaptation of Manoj Mitra's Ashwatthama floundered on this count. It was too large and prosaic.

The festival's real find was Harijan Gatha, a Rangnayak the Left Theatre production. Crafting a collage of contemporary Hindi, Marathi and Maithili poetry on Dalit issues and churning images of discrimination that begins from birth, this 37-minute piece was a visual treat. The director, Deepak Sinha, took a leaf out of the books of Badal Sircar and Probir Guha to create a language that is both effective and essential for our times.