All-out war on obscenity

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  • Published 3.01.10

In winter theatre thrives in Calcutta. Close on the heels of the Nandikar National Theatre festival came Aneek’s 12th Ganga Jamuna Natya Utsav (December 24 to 31) featuring 35 plays from West Bengal, Pune, Tripura and other places. The crowds filling out the venues on most days of the festival soothed sore eyes.

On a smaller scale Sohan’s seventh Natyamela at Bijon Theatre showcased works from Calcutta, Asansol, Halisahar, Chandernagore, Gobardanga and Bangladesh.

Even para groups have joined in. Udayer Pathey of north Calcutta has booked major city groups like Sundaram, Nandikar, Sayak, Purba Paschim and Mukho Mukhi for its debut festival (January 6-10) at the Minerva.

Festivals are good for premieres too. Anya Theatre launched Charam Chikitsha at the Sohan Natyamela on December 29. Director Bibhas Chakraborty had chosen the Buddhadeva Bose play not only as an artistic challenge or a tribute to Bose but because he felt that “the play is very relevant to our times when not just greats like M.F. Husain and Taslima Nasreen get exiled but a play like Dorjiparar Morjinara faces flak in Salt Lake for vulgarity”.

Bose wrote Charam Chikitsha in 1968 in retaliation for the charges of obscenity that had dogged his writing career. “That was the time when Bose’s Raat Bhore Brishti, Samaresh Basu’s Bibar and Prajapati were being dragged to court so Bose wrote out this argument in the form of a play. It was never produced because it is more discussion than play (as we know it).... There are scholarly references not everyone would grasp, so even though I have made editorial changes, this performance can succeed only before select audiences,” said Chakraborty.

In the play a veteran writer, an upcoming poet, a professor and others gather for a Shukra Sandhya (much like Bose’s Budh-Sandhya) adda. They realise that there is no legal definition of obscenity and everything from Shakespeare, Kalidasa, a Shivalingam, parent and child, birds and bees, even geography and geometry may be construed as obscene by some. Thus, the charam chikitsha or ultimate cure, for obscenity is World War III, which will destroy all forms of “impure” life.