11 May 2016: “Passing Show” stage-play by Sayak in Kolkata

Sayak is a name in the Group Theatres raging across Kolkata of recent times. Way back in 1973, on the 2nd December, a band of eleven young theatre enthusiasts gave birth to this group and they have successfully kept the audience opera-bound for the last 43 years, with unflagging spirit. With 24 full-length plays and 7 short plays to its credit till date, Sayak is going places with equal élan with a number of original scripts by Chandan Sen, Indrasis Lahiri and Ujjal Cattopadhay and with the translated and adapted plays by the great masters like Tolstoy, Brecht, Maugham and a few others as well. Remarkable productions which took the audience by storm since the eighties to this day are Dui Hujurer Gappo, Gyan Briksher Phal, Basbhumi, Daybaddha, Karnabati, Aw-AA-Ka-Kha, Badhutantra, Saanjhbela, Dildar, Pinky Buli, Daamini Hey, so forth. For its uninterrupted, diligent productions, it has also won quite a few prestigious awards from many government as well as non-government organizations, including Paschim Banga Natya Academy. Meghnad Bhattacharya, at the helm of all affairs of Sayak, is a powerful director and a much-acclaimed actor with innovation running in his vein and excellence being the hallmark of all he lays his hands on.

The present production, Passing Show (originally written by Amar Mitra),  is a magic weaving of a quest for the past with a tussle of values in the present, the warps of a world of magic realism with the woofs of stark reality. And the director-actor, Meghnad Bhattacharya, breathes life into the play, with his competent enacting of the lead character, Atin Dutta, the son of Dhurjatiprasad Dutta, the lyricist. While he was caught in the trammels of a realtor’s collusion with his own sister and brother-in-law to take up his house, he gets out to delve deep within himself searching for the only record of a song, whose words had been written by his father, and the song was sung by Atulananda De, both of whom had passed away long back. His quest took him to Ghulam Mohammad (Samiran Bhattacharya) who had a magical key to peep into the heart of Atin. He made him believe that nothing in this world would get lost. He asked him to hold on to the tune of the brilliant song, “Nodi-ti giyache choliya/Path-ti pore ache dhulaye…” (The river has meandered by/ The road lies forlorn in dust…).  And, after Faustus-like experiences like being witness to the final sailing off of Reshmi Bai (Papia Roy), a renowned singer of the yesteryears, waiting for almost a century with Jon Senior (Subrata Bhowal of Passing Show fame), her paramour, for the right ship to draw up the Ganges to take them to England, or, miraculously coming across his school-pals after a long, long interregnum by the magical intervention of Ghulam ‘Recordia’ (affectionately nicknamed by Atin Dutta). And even after, the last surprise awaited him, when, he could drown the cacophony of his sister and brother-in-law on giving away the parental house to the realtor, under the unforgettable melody of KL Saigal. And, that too, on an age-old gramophone, which was believed to have stopped working long ago. Atin was thrilled to see Ghulam ‘Recordia’ once again and thank him. And, there he was led on to blind Jibananda’s (Parimal Chakraborty’s) place by Bipadbhanjan (Kartik Maitra), who fondly cherished the memory of the song his father had sung years back. He kept the record of the song as a fond remembrance. And, when Atin rushed to their house, Jibananda’s mother’s (Krishna Sanyal’s) memory got jogged, she could recognize Atin, the son of Dhurjatibabu, and, the rest is a sweet reliving of the olden times. Atin could even visualize with his mind’s eye, how his father used to listen avidly to his song sung by his friend Atulananda, sitting on the verandah, with ‘Passing Show’ cigar held between his fingers. He even saw his dead classmate, Swarnakamal (Prasenjit Kundu), a staunch Marxist-Leninist rebel of the ’seventies, for once.

The play ends with the family’s (Wife: Runa Mukhopadhyay’s; and Daughter: Indrajita Chakraborty’s) concern for frequent references to Ghulam ‘Recordia’ and Atin Dutta’s successful merging with his ‘new’ self!

No doubt, it is a brilliant play of the modern times, for which Meghnad Bhattacharya will be remembered by the posterity for aeons! Without the laudable contribution of Joy Sarkar (Music), Saumik-Piyali (Stage-setting), Somnath Chattopadhyay (Lighting), Sukalyan Bhattacharya (Choreography) and Panchanan Manna (Make-up), the play would never have been brought to life on stage. Kudos to all of SAYAK!  

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

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