Bhalo Lok – Pirandello again in an old-fashioned theatre

Posted by Kaahon Desk On January 24, 2020

Sayak theatre group is one of the most popular names in Bengali theatre arena. The writer-director duo of Chandan Sen and Meghnad Bhattacharya has already given us multiple significant productions throughout the years. The newest creation of these two is Sayak theatre group’s new production – ‘Bhalo Theko’. This Luigi Pirandello inspired play’s most recent show was on 19th January, 2020 at Niranjan Sadan, although this particular review is based on its 20th show (2nd January of 2020, Madhusudan Mancha).

The setting of the play is Majherchar, a semi-suburban place on the banks of Bhagirathi.

Previous Kaahon Theatre Review:

Satyacharan and Dhurjatinarayan of Majherchar are childhood friends, both are supporters of the same political leader. Later Dhurjatinarayan makes a name for himself in the political arena and starts living in city. Satyacharan stays back in Majherchar and devotes himself in social welfare. Satyacharan’s honesty, empathy and elegant behaviour make him everyone’s favourite, he becomes the good guy. With time, the ideological conflict between the two friends deepens. But the gentleman also has a darker side to his apparently bright persona. And Dhurjatinarayan plots to unravel that side. The truth unfolded from struggles and complexities of relationships start to shake the foundation of Satyacharan’s gentlemanly stature. He realises that all relationships are nothing but man’s figment of a utopic imagination. Consequently, Satyacharan’s conscience revolts. Is the revolt against changing colours of familiar faces or is it against the scared and weak man inside him?

Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936) is one of the most powerful writers of European theatre. He wrote a novel named ‘Tutto per bane’ in 1906 and he also dramatised it in 1920. Later, Henry Reed translated it to English and titled it ‘All for the Best’. ‘All for the Best’ serves as inspiration behind this production. The main theme of the play is self-discovery. Few confusions that we mistake as truths, arise in this path of self-exploration. This play attempts to search this concept of relative truth. Inspired by the spirit of this play, writer Chandan Sen has created a Bengali play which is thematically and linguistically plucked from Bengali lifestyle. But the temperate approach is not maintained everywhere. For example, to showcase the current state of Indian society, he has added a few scenes showcasing the influence of industrialists in politics and involvement of intellectuals in political sphere. But neither does it have any direct relation to the main story, nor does it help in its progression. Rather, it appears to be thrusted upon. The writer-director duo’s popular 90s production ‘Dayboddho ‘ appears to bear narrative and executive similarities with this play. It should be noted that ‘ Dayboddho’ is Sayak theatre group’s most popular production.

Director has presented the play in a simple, linear structure, while keeping the main theme intact – the vulnerability emanating from complex human relationships. Satyacharan’s character is another typical extension of Meghnad Bhattacharya’s gestures and expressions, though it goes well with this character. But the startled dialogues right from the start of the play hinders the multidimensional character from coming out fully. The emotional foundation of the play leaves it vulnerable to melodrama. Even though the play attempts to resist it, melodrama enters at halfway through the play and stays till the end. The other actors also have the tendency to deliver their dialogues in a heightened state. Kathakali in Kalpa’s character and Runa Mukherjee in Prabha character are the exceptions. Kathakali with her natural and fluent acting aptly captures the calm yet firm and intelligent persona of Kalpa. Runa Mukherjee, in the character’s small capacity, manages to portray Prabha in a perfect way. Contrary to these two performers, the rest of the performance appear fairly dated.

Atho Hirimba Kotha– A timely, good, honest and entertaining theatreIn stage design (Saumik-Piyali), we are familiar with living rooms decorated with typical furniture. In the background, a boat’s sail gives us a feel of the river bank while its grey hue gives us the impression of the complex human psyche. Somnath Chattopadhyay’s simple light designing adequately shows various moods of the play. The appropriate use of lights has created a few memorable dramatic moments. But few faults in the light projection were also noticed. Background music (Gautam Ghosh) has adequately achieved the play’s demand as well. The well thought out use of Tagore’s song at the end of the play creates a lingering effect in the audience’s mind.

Overall, we can say that the way director has directed and executed the play, is old-fashioned and has been used for the umpteenth time. Pirandello’s works have been acted in many countries and in many languages. Still, Pirandello in Bengali theatre is always restricted to ‘Six Characters in Search of an Author’ (currently another group in Kolkata is staging it). Sayak has already staged Shchedrin, Tolstoy, Brecht, Somerset Maugham et al. in Kolkata and now they have brought Pirandello through one of his lesser known works, which is the biggest gain from this production.

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

Read this review in Bengali.

বাংলাতে পড়তে ক্লিক করুন।

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