Ek Manush, Chhai : A easy escape through nostalgia, overlooking the present

Posted by Kaahon Desk On March 22, 2019

Ek Manush, Chhai, a play influenced by a short story by Binod Ghosal, edited and directed by Ashok Mazumder and produced by Belgharia Avimukh, project the irrationalism, helplessness, and absurdity of life. With emphasis on psychological realism in acting, the play is a symbolist drama. The plot encircles the life of a young man, who, after getting into the electric crematorium, looks back at his life and tries to evaluate his life and its consequences which had provoked him to choose suicide as to be his only available escape route. Tormented with poverty, and failed love, each of his family members gets trapped into acute depression, loneliness and finally death relieves them.

The plot exposes the vulnerable mundaneness of the common life of every Indian citizen. Yet, this reflection of failure, loneliness, depression, economic turbulence could not touch the emotions of the audience watching the play. The main reason of such a gap remains in the fact that the storyline of the play is trapped into a different time zone which the present audience have long passed behind. A time travel into the past to experience the pathos of a common man struggling against the challenges of life and failing each time could have been done through the literature (short story by Binod Ghosal) itself. If a theatre director intends to present the same through a new medium called theatre, which interacts with real audiences in real time, then certain interpretative intervention is expected from the director, which explicitly is missing in this play.

Previous Kaahon Theatre Review:

The play is built upon a time frame of the late sixties or early seventies, when Bengal was drowning in problems like unemployment, political instability, a different Victorian strict society etc. With the tide of global capitalism and consumerism ushering in Bengal, the entire socio-political and economic scenario of Bengal saw a new face of life with new avenues towards pain, inflation, social insecurity and many more. The play neither surpasses to a level of a classic to remain true of all times, rather reflects the typical Bengali’s love for nostalgia. Nostalgia sells well in Bengal as Bengalis never take the effort to create a new form of art or to invite a painful pinch in the brain to critically showcase their present time. The vulnerable time, that had invoked artists to create art, be it in literature, cinema or theatre, can be celebrated over time and time again, as it takes less effort but locating the vulnerability of a prosperous time that globalization has gifted and creating an art out of it, is much a strenuous work is always refrained from by the Bengalis. This play clearly reflects this syndrome.

With the proliferation of choices in today’s society, having too many choices can lead to choice paralysis, where both decision making and well-being are undermined. This leads to FOMO (Fear of missing out), the new coinage that has recently caught media attention and is considered to be one of the leading factors to disturb mental health of the young adults driving them towards suicide. This present world had threatened the self-identity and has transformed adulating to be extremely difficult, gifting with threats like anxiety, fear and insecurity.  The play fails to take a look at all these and many more crises which is slowly paralyzing the everyday mundane life of the ordinary citizens. This play, only makes us sigh of the fact, when will Bengali Theatre be an adult and stop taking the easy route to enjoy a fragment of melodramatic balm and take real stringent efforts to etch out art out of the current trajectory of life.

The set and the light design have been executed by Jayanta Bandyopadhyay and Dipankar De respectively. A magical synchronization of the two designers has seriously captured the echoes of romanticism, while depicting interiority, or the stream of consciousness of the protagonist. One of the imageries, where the protagonist stands in front of a series of road distance markers (mile stones) which symbolises the number of deaths he experienced in life, and a ray of light falls over them, can be said as to be the only gain from the entire play, which connects audiences to feel that life is nothing but a journey, and one just needs to continue travelling. Though, details of the stagecraft, like the paintings used, over the stage points towards casual approach. The music is designed by Ujan Chatterjee, which fails to add anything to the design rather disturbs the emotional journey of the audiences with the play. The play is a monologue and has been enacted by Anujoy Chattopadhyay. Anujoy is well versed with the technical aspects of acting but lacks the intensity which drags any soul into a story and forces to remain in it. But the possibilities of such ability is reflected in Anujoy’s acting and may be it will be exposed in some other plays or other shows of this play later in future. One-time appearance of Koushani Mukhopadhyay is absolutely baseless and is an act of visual disturbance.

Ami Anukul-da Aar Ora, Theatre Review

The play fails to prove its relevance to the audience in present time. The story it narrates, is told long time back through various mediums in Bengali language, be it literature, music, theatre, cinema. For an audience of the twenty-first century, this play should have induced a new interpretation. It can only be hopped that impounding crisis of the daily life of the common man will be told for once in Bengali theatre which will bring a ray of hope towards gaining the courage to fight every battle of life in future.


Srijayee Bhattacharjee
A postgraduate in film studies from Jadavpur University, Research Project Assistant in Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies, a thespian, creative producer and a writer.

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