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By Ananda Lal
  • Published 11.08.12

For a change, instead of old couples suffering in their twilight years, Bengali theatre shifts to solitary senior citizens not going down without a fight. Both Nandipat’s Bhram and Mangalik’s Mallabhumi depict strong individuals living with dignity and resisting robbery, even if futilely.

Ujjwal Chattopadhyay’s Bhram presents three single men — two retirees in an old-age home and one in his own house — befriending a mysterious lady who also lives all alone. The first half entertains with the question, which of the trio will win her, for she seems to lead on each one by turns. But Chattopadhyay’s often diversionary writing habit recurs as the second half takes off on a tangent, which we realize has nothing to do with what went before. A murder by a trusted servant takes place and the traumatized woman grows paranoid, suspecting her maid of plotting to kill her. But this knot, too, unravels in an anticlimax.

The director, Prokash Bhattacharya, tries to restore some pattern in an evidently loose script with far too many red herrings, but he should not have chosen it in the first place. The progressively degenerating party scene (picture) marks his best achievement. Among the actors, Piyali Basu convincingly expresses the many moods of the enigmatic lady, whereas the friends — Sanjib Choudhury, Saumitra Poddar, Bimal Chakraborty — have relatively little to challenge themselves with. In smaller parts, Sarbani Saha and Pintu Das (the maid and her illicit beau) give natural performances.

Mohit Chattopadhyaya wrote Mallabhumi which, like so many of his later works, is essentially a one-act play extended somehow or the other, often under pressure from groups. The hero belongs to that large population of his creations, ordinary yet eccentric people who never let go of their innocence and idealism — in this particular case, an aging man who wants to evade capture by the aliens that he believes have taken over earth and made it inhuman. He wishes to gift his land, now worth over a crore, for a charitable nursing home. But he cannot escape his estranged wife, a “facilitator” and their boss, brainwashing him to sell it to build a mall.

Samir Biswas enacts the lead in his usual polished realistic style, hyperactively protesting, egging himself on by singing anthems of no surrender under his breath. The supporting cast (Sankari Prasad Mitra, Debjani Mukherjee, Soumya Biswas) complements him adequately. But as director, he introduces intrusive dance sequences that kill time, and needs to improve on an abrupt conclusion.