1 Apr 2016: Ismat Chughtai’s “Do Haath”: A laudable performance

Phoenix, the experimental theatre group again made its presence felt on Sisir Mancha, Kolkata, in the annual programme of SHOI, a cultural and intellectual body, formed by the renowned Sahitya-Award winning writer and distinguished academic, Nabaneeta Deb Sen. In about twenty minutes or so, the theatrical unit , performed a play in Bengali, translated from Urdu, originally by Ismat Chughtai. In fact, this programme was aimed at resuscitating the unforgettable writings of Chughtai, on her birth-centenary. The play, which the Director, Dr Anuradha Kunda, had taken up for performance was Do Haath, a play which mingles subtle wit with plain humour, a voice of protest underlying the seemingly innocuous presentation of the characters and their unpretentious lifestyle.

The curtain raises on a humble household of Nimmi (played by Arpita Saha), at the outskirts of a village, where she stays with her daughter-in-law, Gowri (Moon Ghosh). Her son, Ramu (Mehdi Hassan), stays far-off and hardly gets leave to pay a visit to his mother and wife. The young wife, Gowri, with abundance of youthful charm, craves for the company of man. And, that is not even unnatural for a married damsel of her age. Hence, as Nimmi’s nephew, Ratiram (Arka Das), comes to stay with them for some days, she finds a new definition of ‘attachment’ in a household. Her youthful craving gets satiated, Ratiram’s lust is gratified and the consequence is a ‘baby’ to be born soon. The whole neighbourhood resonates in snide remarks, bombarded on the young wife of Ramu. Begum (Manila Roy Chowdhury), a frequent visitor of the household, too, does not spare Gowri. She even suggests Nimmi to get rid of such a slut-like daughter-in-law. Nimmi never took her counsels to heart. In the meanwhile, Ramu, her son, comes back to see the newborn. Though, sundry eyebrows are raised at Gowri’s being the mother of a son, whose conception is shrouded in mystery, Ramu gets beside himself in joy and rejoices on being a father. His mind never gets clouded with doubts or confusion and her mother, too, never thinks otherwise. Nimmi’s befitting rejoinder to the fault-finding neighbours is, “Gowri works with two hands and makes the family run. Her place in the household is indispensable.” Such a protest against the breakers of the nest is praiseworthy, no doubt. Nimmi is powerful as a character and Arpita Saha deserves special accolades for such spontaneous portrayal of a mother’s character with perfect élan. Credit is shared in moiety by the director and the actress.   Kedarnath Banerjee, Dipankar Dutta in the lesser roles are quite deft.

The histrionics, the overall performance, the rendering of dialogues would have been a bit chiseled, had the crew got some more time to help all the petals of the flower of ‘fruition’ unfold. However, Dr Kunda’s effort to fit all the emotions along with flicks of wit and humour into the short duration of twenty minutes or so, is laudable. The audience’s applause reverberated in the hall, leaving room for much expectation from Phoenix, in future.     

Report: Dr Ketaki Datta, Associate Professor (English), Bidhannagar (Govt) College, Kolkata

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