Dana – Earnest effort theatrically but not in tune with present time

Posted by Kaahon Desk On August 9, 2019

The Bengali theatre might be losing its audience at full tilt but that has nowhere curbed the spirit of forming new groups everyday. Does that mean that the already existent theatre groups are unable to cater to the needs of these changed times? In fact, according to a large percentage of avid theatre frequenters, what has distanced the Bengali theatre from its audience is the lack of contemporariness in it. This disappointment or a sense of obligation might be what gave birth to a young theatre group ‘Tollygunge Sangsaptak’ and their first ever full-length production ‘Dana’- whose sixth presentation had been staged on 23rd March, 2019 at Minerva Theatre, Kolkata. The tenth performance happened recently on 3rd August at Rabindra Sadan auditorium. But this review is essentially based on the sixth performance only. The play has been both written and directed by Kaushik Chattopadhyay.

Previous Kaahon Theatre Review:

‘Dana’ explores how the common people, failing to keep up with the fast pace of modern life, is gradually becoming separated from its surroundings! It is nothing new though. The intense despair and exasperation felt around the post Second World War Europe gave rise to this new language of theatre, and later it spread all around the world. Years have passed but the problems have not lost their relevance even today, on the contrary have intensified; making such plays thoroughly relatable to the present audience. A man can rise above the petty confinement of meaninglessness comprising anguish, anxiety and apprehension only when he becomes capable of taking that ultimate or decisive resolution which reclaims his self-esteem as an individual man! The play recounts the tale of one such individual Gopinath, alias Gupi, who has been haunted by failure since childhood, be it at sports or romantic relationships with women! Gopinath is now a middle-aged man, bogged down by both family and work. To make a turn of the stunting events, he ends up challenging the institution! His audacity gets him punished as well but he is unmoved by it since he knows establishing one’s existence requires a firm social or political standpoint!

Writer-director Kaushik Chattopadhyay has used a metaphor to establish Gopinath’s rebellion against the society and family. It is very straightforward and so helps the audience to connect in no time. Right at the beginning, a strange ‘playwright’ enters the stage and almost like a narrator tends to take the play forward, while occasionally for brief moments, gets into the story as well. Since this idiosyncratic environment surrounds the play from its very beginning, the use of metaphor never appears as unanticipated. To this unusual take on the craft of the play, Neel Kaushik’s stage and Soumen Chakraborty’s light design complement aptly. Use of fragmentary images onstage is slightly overdone but is logical nonetheless; stairs have been reasonably used as well, although it seemed to hinder the rhythm of the play at times. Western music seems to have a strong influence in Ujan Chattopadhyay’s songs; it might be loud but is helpful in creating dramatic moments. The choreography, accompanied by the dress, mask, background chore and perfectly organized dance movements, creates a great impact on the audience. The articulation of the character of narrator, played by Palash Karmakar, is consistent with the director’s concept of the play and Palash has been very patient with the character too. But the play largely rests upon the dependable shoulders of Prasenjit Bardhan in the shoes of Gopinath. With his vocal and physical acting techniques, he does his best to communicate the existential crisis of the character. But he should be careful not to get swayed by the audience’s expectations and burden the play’s subject with the overuse of his physical acting.Aamar Sohor (My City) – A cinematic presentation of an original playAlthough the play nearly succeeds in conveying the character’s crisis to the audience, it clearly leaves some questions trailing behind. The play is set in the present but the only testament to it is taking the name of our present prime minister in a dialogue! That contemporariness is nowhere to be found in the characterization. Gopinath, his wife and children, office colleagues or even the boss-every single character from the play resembles the decades-old stock characters of Bengali theatre! Existential crisis is no doubt timeless, but the play fails to put up any potential reason, social or political, behind Gopinath’s crisis, which is exclusively modern! Even the other characters too deal with those conventional problems- wife’s round-the-clock struggle, son’s job, daughter’s marriage etc. In fact the outer form of the play too has the same issue, like the banality of miming the use of files and typewriters in a certain scene, suggesting the mechanization of workplace. It becomes hard to tell whether it is just another example of Bengali’s eternal hangover with nostalgia or a deliberate attempt to avoid commenting upon the contemporary society and politics or a practical inability to identify the crisis of this age and create a compelling art out of it! On the other hand, the prolonged existence and feeble but desperate poetries of Chandrani, a former lover of Gopinath, only lengthens the play and makes it tiresome, reminding us of similar such scenes from ‘Ebong Indrajit’. On the whole, the play gives us mixed feelings- a new vision towards the craft, careful choreography along with music and light, and Prasenjit’s exemplary acting over everything doubtlessly elevate the play from the average productions of these days but at the same time take it nowhere near to the long expectations of embracing the contemporary times!


Anjan Nandi
A science student, postdoctoral researcher, writer-translator of science oriented popular literature and a dedicated audience of theatre for last two decades, he has observed many changes in Bengali theatre from a very close proximity. He is a regular contributor in Bengali Wikipedia and engages himself deeply in photography and cinema.

Translation- Rishav Dutta

Read this review in Bengali.

বাংলাতে পড়তে ক্লিক করুন।


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