Nov 23: “Damini Hey” – Stage-play running over a year



Almost a year ago, when a theatre-director, a story-writer and a playwright sat together in the greenroom of Academy of Fine Arts, the performance on stage was simply a ‘page-to-stage’ affair. Almost a year has passed by in the meanwhile, along with many events and untoward transpirations dotting the tabula rasa of Time, journeying to Eternity. On its august opening in the early months of 2014, the theatre-goers were of the notion that ‘Damini Hey’ (Oh Damini) was more of a political play than anything else. But, along with the mellowness of performance, the life-like presentation of the title-role by Kathakali Dev, the play is drawing more crowd in each show, raising new and newer questions, whose answers have to be given by the director, if not alone.

One such adda (tête-à-tête) took place lately, again in the Academy premises, when the story-writer, the playwright and the director, once more  sat together to take stock of the overall response to the play after its commendable presentation to the audience for over twelve months. For a play to run successfully, one year is not a matter to trifle with. Rather, the reason behind it is to seek minutely, with a closer probe.  

Chandan Sen, the playwright developed two stories of Amar Mitra, interspersing events, threadbare, from a few more stories. The two main stories by Amar Mitra, which served grist to the mill are Akaal (Famine) and Anna (Rice). Amar Mitra takes up the burning issue of present-day politics in Bengal: Junglemahal. The whole narration pivots round Damini, a damsel (played by Kathakali), and three old men. A local myth runs undertone. The unsettled plight of the people, the loss of peace and dearth of food, the mythical presence of the water-body which stood witness to sundry incidents in the village – all keep the audience mesmerized for nearly two and half hours. Director Meghnad Bhattacharya, a veteran actor-director since the nineties, at the helm of a theatre-group, Sayak, believes that the audience understands everything and all. He is far from educating the audience. Rather, he aims at making the events worth visualizing. That is why, he takes care of the minute details like lighting, stage appurtenances, sound, music, so on, so forth. His own interest in lighting helped him bring the desired effect. Shuvendu Maiti is a trustworthy art-director, who can create magic on stage, with novel introduction of stage-crafts and artefacts. Meghnad Bhattacharya takes almost six months in order to take the whole story from the page to the stage. Chandan Sen thinks of dramatizing more stories by Mitra in future.

Amar Mitra is not a politician, Chandan Sen rather is one. Meghnad does not politicize a scene but needs veracity to breathe meaning into the performance.   Therein lies the charm and we are given to understand why a play like Damini Hey runs for umpteen evenings in a packed opera-house, like, Academy of Fine Arts.  

Report by: Ketaki Datta, Kolkata, Nov 23, 2015, ketaki.datta@gmail.com

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