02 Aug 2016: Scintillating Performance of Merchant of Venice in Bengali


Merchant of Venice is a play by Shakespeare, with which even a school-going child is conversant. And, interestingly enough, when the child attains the age of forty-eight or fifty, then also the play remains equally appealing to him/her. Is it because of Shakespeare’s flawless delineation of characters or something else? The reason is not far to seek. It is because of the power of love and compassion, discomfiting cruelty and calculative slyness, which Shakespeare portrays so meticulously. Whoever does not remember Portia’s famous speech, we had in our school days, under the title “Quality of Mercy”? The excerpt stirred in us an inordinate desire to read the whole play and scrounging time from the hours meant for Mathematics, I used to read and enjoy the brilliant lines of Shakespeare. 

And, in the month of July, 2016, that mesmerism got stirred again in some nook of my heart when Mr. Bilwadal Chattopadhyay kindly welcomed me to a show to be held at Tapan Theatre, Kolkata. Disrupting all pre-planned schedules, I ran to respond to his clarion call. And, it was worth it. 

Believe it or not, the two-and-a-half hour sped by on winged flight through eternity leaving me entirely won over. The Bengali translation of the play is impeccable [Translated by Ujjwal Chatterjee] and the roles played by Shylock (Bilwadal Chatterjee), Bassanio (Ranodeep Nandy), Antonio (Shyamal Sarkar), Lorenzo (Achintya Majumder), Portia (Minakshi Mukherjee), Nerissa (Monalisa Das), Jessica (Papia Saha) are simply mind-blowing.  Bilwadal Chatterjee, as Shylock, needs especial mention as none else would have brought the character to life with such deftness and elan. Perhaps, his thirty-year-long experience in the thespian arena would have added finesse to his acting. The dancers Anindya Ray, Shaonli Saha, Ruprekha Dutta, Sangita Sikdar, Animesh Chakraborty need mention too, as their dance movements stirred a chord in each heart. However, to a critic’s eye, the steps needed a few more hours of practice, which I am sure can be better in the next performance. 

Thanks are due to Murari Roy Choudhuri (Music), Bharganath Bhattacharya (Set Design), Badal Das (Light), Ranjit Dutta (Make-up), Madan Haldar (Stage Craft), Sarmistha Bose (Costume), Minakshi Mukherjee (Choreography), Anindya Nandy (Sound), Ranodeep Nandy (Graphics), Sinjini Chakraborty (Singing) and topping all, Bilwadal Chatterjee (Direction). 

The play, a successful rendition on stage of Shakespeare’s timeless creation, a Romantic Comedy, to be precise, is a right choice to perform in the contemporary times. As the Director in his Note says, when the multinational companies are strutting and fretting on the National Market arena, they are oppressing the young appointees like Shylock. A pound of flesh for the salary they pay, is what they demand, marring their leisure, desire for family togetherness, and, what not! Standing tall in this century, Shakespeare proves again, that, quality of Mercy still holds out no appeal to Shylock and the mercenary attitude of the foreign companies are lambasting our conscience—are we negotiating with our peace, harmony, unity by aspiring after a dream-target? This play must carve a niche in the heart of the audience by dint of its own merit. 

(Report by Ketaki Datta. Posted Aug 2, 2016)

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