Andhar Goli – Lack of clarity in politics of a political theatre

Posted by Kaahon Desk On September 12, 2019

The identity nation is changing fast. It is now chained inside a dark alley of languidness. In fact, the country itself is turning into a dark alley. How do we come out of this darkness? Who will show us the light? The answers to these questions have been explored by Howrah Kadamtala Theatre Workers’ new play ‘Andhar Goli’. Recently the play was staged on 6th September, at Tapan Theatre though this review is based on the sixth show of the play on 25th June at the Academy of Fine Arts. The play has been written by Tapan Kumar Hazra and directed by Ashok Ghosh

Previous Kaahon Theatre Review:

The democratic revolution of men that was envisioned by the left ideologue Hiranmayi Basu, is still being carried forward today by his son Anirban. Evil people are lurking under darkness and the voices of people like Anirban are growing more fierce. Just like the child from Tagore’s ‘Bichitra Sadh’, Anirban as a child dreamt of becoming a part of the hill people and standing in front alleys to thwart the advances of evil. In this changing surroundings, Anirban today is ravaged by the pangs of time. Today, he is voiceless and also has lost his memory. Hiranmayi brings Anirban to Dr. Sen’s chamber and this is where the play begins. Anirban’s childhood, his likes and dislikes are shown through flashbacks as the story moves on. The play chronicles the turbulent political climate of the 70s till today. Various stages and events in Anirban’s life are paralleled with the changing the socio-political situations. Right from the birth, Anirban’s sole support is his mother, Hiranmayi. It is Hiranmayi, due to ideology differences, had left her husband and branded him a fascist. Apart from her son, party cadres like Shantanu, Gautam, Dhruba, Hasi also become Hiranmayi’s family. Quite naturally, they also become Anirban’s family members. Being nurtured under a certain political ideology and belief system, Anirban is shocked by of the fast changing society. When he tells ‘mother, you’re changing’, neither Hiranmayi nor the audience have any answer to that. That’s why Anirban’s loss of voice symbolises our own subservience in this terrible time. Hiranmayi, while describing various past events to Dr. Sen in order to identify the reason behind Anirban’s mental decay, realises that she too is somewhat responsible for her son’s plight. This self-realisation again leads her back to the path of revolution. The play has attempted to shed light on the true nature of the political crisis of today and the writer-director duo have tried to provide solutions from their own ideological point of view. The catastrophic political condition that people witnessed in the 70s, has returned with more fury. On one hand, communal machinery is dividing people and the protesters are branded as anti-nationals. On the other hand, shrewd politicians with vested interest are pushing citizens towards darkness just to hold on to their power. Then, who will show us the light? The same old communism who has been fighting for the proletariat’s rights and unity. This firm belief of writer-director duo on Marxian philosophy has been reflected time and again in the play.

The production is extremely relevant in today’s time but it needed to be more brave and straightforward. Political plays especially with precise target have met hindrances from time immemorial. That’s why the evil entity that’s being criticised here should be clarified, otherwise, the play’s main purpose won’t reach out to the audience. Unfortunately, the opposing forces have not been mentioned clearly, there has always been an oblique reference to them. Moreover, the unclear chronology of the events mentioned here creates only confusion. Anirban studying in a certain grade during the Emergency is specifically mentioned and according to the same information, he should be quite a senior now but he appears to be a young man. This loophole in chronology leads to more confusions in the course of the play. These are visible in the timeline of events like the rise of privatised news channels in Kolkata and Chhoto Angaria massacre. The ending of the play makes it a possibility that Anirban’s mental disintegration might have happened in the very next day of his dear friend’s demise but during the conversation with the doctor, why is this context not highlighted at the very beginning? Few lines could have been used to describe the events timeline (but it is also a possibility that the main protagonist might have ‘missed’ a few lines). Character sketches also leave a lot to be desired. In the case of Hasi-masi and Shanta-kaku, why Anirban is siding with Shanta, and not with Hasi, has not been cleared again. Hiranmayi’s sudden transformation to fiery local leader after a long gap of 30 years is also hard to swallow. The defeat of the communists directly paved way for a communal party to make inroads. It is not surprising to assume that they have deliberately avoided the context of Trinamool-Congress here. Overall, the execution of the play puts a big question mark over its believability thus diminishing its political stance.

Bhunibabur Chandni – Enraptured Bengali theatre with time-worn storiesWhen we talk about the acting in the play, we have to talk about Snigdha Barui as child Anirban. His stage-free acting leaves a deep impression on the audiences. Gambhira Bhattacharya as grown-up Anirban is natural as usual. His nuanced performance depicts the various layers of the character, beautifully. Bindiya Ghosh is a competent actress and she has proven herself again in this play. Since she didn’t have the scope for make-over, had to evoke the changes in age only through her voice and gestures. But her extremely trembling voice as old Hiranmayi comes across a bit artificial. Rupam Bhattacharya as Dr. Sen fits perfectly. Tuhina Basu in the role of Hasi has impressed us with her skilled acting. Anupam Pal is expected to develop and explore the character of Shantanu fully interpreting it beyond the limitation of one dimensional thinking. Nil Kaushik’s stage design is quite intelligent. His imagination goes well with the play’s atmosphere and Ajit Roy’s set making makes it more believable. Tapas Roy’s tidy background music gives a political statement that provides a special angle to the play. The two songs that have been used in the play (Gouriprasanna Mazumder’s lyrics in the title song for the film Neel Akasher Niche and ‘Kader Sathe Hathte Tumi’ by the dramatist) are very much significant. Jayanta Mukhopadhyay’s light design lacks a bit of finesse. Imperfection is also visible in the way light has been shed onto the said day’s show. Costume design by Poulomi Das is thoughtful. Even though the scope in costume design was limited due to the structure of the play itself, she has tried to make the characters look convincing through a minimalist approach.

The turbulent political climate of today calls for plays like these. At the end of the play when we hear in Hiranmayi’s voice, ‘we need a collective explosion’, it transforms into an appeal to come out of the dark alley. We hope that they play will iron out the chinks in its armour and let its voice known more firmly in future performances.

Pradip Datta
A post-graduation diploma holder of the Department of Media Studies, University of Calcutta, he has been a theatre activist in Bengal for the last twenty five years. He is a freelance journalist by profession. Besides theatre, his passion includes recitation, audio plays and many more.

Translation – Biplab Mazumder

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