11 Jun 2017: Adyo Shesh Rajani: A Tale of Despair? Or a Transition of Bengali Theatre?

On May 16, 2017, the Academy of Fine Arts was abuzz with theatre-lovers from all corners of Kolkata, who made a beeline to watch a play “Adyo Shesh Rajani,” adapted from a novel of Shyamal Gangopadhyay by Ujjal Chattopadhyay, and directed by Bratya Basu, the noted thespian and actor. Paikpara Indraranga had brought the play from the page to the stage.

The play is all about the constant war between the demands of Art and those of the Artist, the incessant tug-of-war between the world of fantasy and reality, the clash between ideals of the real world and that of art. Can any demarcating line be drawn, visibly or invisibly, between the question of Morality in Art and vice versa? In fact, this play is a probe into the life and times of Ashim Chakraborty (Amiya in the play), the famous thespian of the yesteryear, who had to face calumnies and harsh criticism when he made his play, Barbadhu, centring the life of a harlot, a hit, nay an all-time hit on the stage of Bengal in the ’seventies. He appellated the play as a “blow-hot play on Love” and the present group adds a twist to it, “a blow-hot play of despair.” In fact, the director Amiya (played by Anirban Bhattacharya) who had won moderate success with his plays “Neel Ghora” and “Janaiker Mrityu,”, aimed at higher acceptability with his “Barbadhu,” in which the woman of supposedly easy morals, had to compete with the educated, sophisticated women of the society with her pronounced curves, attractive physique and bawdy ways of winning the heart of a man, her client. Amiya’s dreams come haunting him, when he literally rides a blue horse of his dreams and gallops away in glee. His Willy Loman, on stage, dies a sad demise when his fibs or his foray into the world of dreams can bring him nothing save a narrow escape from life through a narrower corridor of suicide.

But, here Rajani (Debjani Chattopadhyay), the fallen woman, the keep of Amiya, who dances to the tune of her director on stage, is a hapless creature, who allows Amiya to tickle her flesh for his pleasure and even go to an extreme point to scrounge delight in the maximum on stage, to regale the audience. The detractors saw red, their pens vilified the director’s production and Academy drew curtains on future shows of the play, Barbadhu, to an utter dismay of Amiya Chakraborty. He tried to bring Art and Artist on an even keel, life and art on the same pedestal and that was his tragic flaw, his hamartia. He was criticized for debunking all notions of morality, for alluring the audience with a cheap promise of the obscene on stage.

In the play, the use of the tramcar as the locale of ‘home’ and ‘beyond,’, the presentation of cabaret as the manifestation of man’s restless psyche and the presence of Bishnubabu (Satrajit Sarkar) as the faithful critic of Amiya’s plays deserve special mention. Use of light, easy overlapping of the time ‘past’ and the time ‘present,’ the impeccable role of Mala, the wife of the director (Ankita Majhi) as a mentally-distanced spouse, who had no voice of protest but just loads of love for her husband—all are portrayed flawlessly by the director and the choreographer. But, could it not be made more realistic by doing away with the cabaret presentation immediately after the demise of Amiya? Or has it been brought in to allay the negative emotion that was moving the audience to tears? Whatever the case may be, the play is a grand hit on Bengali stage and kudos to Anirban, Debjani, Ankita and Bratya Basu for their diligent effort, which is simply matchless! A big hand for Paikapara Indraranga and its fountainhead of inspiration, Indrajit Chakraborty.

Reported by: Ketaki Datta, Associate Professor of English, Bidhannagar Govt. College, Kolkata, Jun 3, 2017

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