Atho Hirimba Kotha – A timely, good, honest and entertaining theatre

Posted by Kaahon Desk On January 17, 2020

The privileged and the powerful always try to manipulate the thought processes of the people about our history, the present and even the future. They keep explaining how justified it is for them to be in power, how much they deserve the authoritarian position and how they never consider the people of the lower strata to be what they are; rather they consider themselves to be their friend, their ally. And they keep saying about how they’re continuously trying to protect those people. This could be very well understood if one delves deep into the responsibility of the society towards the marginalized classes like the physical labourers, indigenous people and women. But if we go deeper, we’ll be bound to question the intention of these explanations. If the people of privileged class really deserve the power, why should they have to show it off? And if they do consider those people of lower class as their allies then why not give them equal opportunities to live in peace? To be very clear, if we look into the matter deeply, the main intention of the upper class is that the others have to be the sufferers to fetch them comfort in life.

On the opposite side exists a perspective, looking out from the preconceived “lower” towards the preconceived “upper”, which is known as the ‘counter narrative’. Standing on the opposite side of those in power, this counter narrative speaks out a completely different tale of an entirely new perspective. It speaks on behalf of the underdogs. It brings out how the people in power have treated the neglected and the marginalized like “…flies to wanton boys…” so as to secure their position in the society and how they themselves have reminded the mass, “You are inferior and we are superior!”

Previous Kaahon Theatre Review:

Samuha production ‘Atho Hirimba Kotha’ is such a counter narrative, or, according to the note given prior to the play, “Statement of the Defeated”. In deciding the subject of the counter narrative, playwright and director Titas Dutta has chosen Hirimba along with bringing up an excellent opportunity of discussing the topics of class, gender and culture, thus strongly proving her maturity. The usage of the word “maturity” is justified knowing the fact that she as well as her theatre group is pretty young. Yet it’s evident through their work that they intend to move towards a specific direction in a well thought out and well planned manner with immense dedication. Those who took part with the director onstage – Satakshi, Nabadeepa, Madhurima, Atasi, Sutapa, Antara, Gargi, Labanya & Sritama – are great performers.  Some of them might have had a few flaws in their acting, either physical or vocal, but they surpassed them with their energy and zeal. The effort of those who worked in the backstage – Pamela, Shaon, Nishant, Dwaipayan, Sudakshina, Moam, Sourami, Reshmi, Madhyama, Panchali, Shreyashi, Ipshita, Suramya & Nirnimesh – is noticed at all times on the stage. Fearlessly, it can be said that the lack of such dedication is very conspicuous among all the “Notice me!” attitudes of many experienced playwrights and directors in Bengali theatre. The lack of maturity even in the production ‘Paanch Korir Goppo’ produced by the actors of Minerva Repertory Theatre is disappointing. The main strength of ‘Atho Hirimba Kotha’ is probably its very zeal.

All of you know the story of Hirimba in Mahabharata. No need to describe it here. Its counter narrative has been designed and performed very enjoyably yet seriously and dedicatedly by everyone in Samuha. It’s difficult to get the taste of this play in review, so better go and watch it soon. The play is so strong in its form and content that for two hours you’ll keep thinking- “what happens next?” It was extremely fulfilling to watch a great production in Bengali theatre after so long!


While presenting the perspective of the underdogs did the members of Samuha become sympathetic towards them? In speaking of the “bad” ones marked out by the conventional “good”, have they tried to establish the underdogs to be the typical “good”? The question remains. Actually, a scene has been added in the play that wasn’t there in the Mahabharata. That scene comprises a conversation among Hirimba, Bheem and Ghatotkach. By then the Pandavas have out and out exploited Hirimba and her lower class clan socially, politically and emotionally. Bheem too has arrived at the spot to exaggerate and display his power. Hirimba has also realized the ill-motive of the Pandavas by now. Despite having a bow and arrow and a gracious refuge of imagination, she didn’t kill Bheem. Why? Three basic reasons come to mind:

  • Is she obligated to sacrifice her life? She knows that as long as the Pandavas are alive they’ll continue to exploit her clan, their forests and their capabilities.
  • Is it her duty to not kill her husband? She already knows that Bheem doesn’t accept her as his wife and would never give Ghatotkach the rights of a prince.
  • Is it her principle to not kill the unarmed? She knows that the strongest weapon of the Pandavas is their politics and they won’t leave any opportunity to wipe off her clan when the time comes.

These questions come to the fore more clearly since Hirimba and her clan have been shown to be self-esteemed, independent and above all, pragmatic from the beginning. From this standpoint, why should Hirimba spare the villain like a merciful film hero? Isn’t it natural at that point to decide to get rid of the trouble that could put her later generations in danger? Probably making this choice was too difficult for the director taking into account that the chances of miscommunication and misinterpretation were 100%.

Along with that it must be said that each of the members of her clan and Hirimba herself are very pure. Among them there’s no corruption, no conflict and no deception. There’s no any ambitions even.  Is this at all possible? Aren’t they looking stereotypically “good”? It’s disappointing if the “good” of the counter narrative try to fall under the category of the typically “good”. Our request to Samuha and its director – please look into this disappointment of ours.

Kabira– A failed execution and poor production of a good playThe use of music in this play has been intentionally made to be unorganized. Maintaining a melody while singing, controlled beats of an instrument, proper physical postures – this is also a narrative created by the people in power of the culture. To that, a great live counter has been used here but it never became a disturbance, rather it complemented the performance excellently. The light design has been done by Utsarjana Mutsuddi. She has tried to keep the use of lights as minimal as possible, though there was great possibility to work with shadows. Could this be explored in future? If yes, then an already brilliant production would be even more magnificent. And we’ll shout our lungs out yet again to everyone saying, “Please do not restrict yourself reading the review only… make sure you would watch the play!”

*This review has been written based on the show staged on 28th December, 2019 at EZCC.

Ebong Ipsita
A Kolkata based theatre practitioner, she has been doing theatre from 2005 and now she is co-directing and adapting plays for different theatre groups in Bengal. She believes to explore the web medium as well to express herself to the world.

Translation- Kankabati Banerjee

Read this review in Bengali.

বাংলাতে পড়তে ক্লিক করুন।

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