Ekti Uttar Adhunik Samajik Pala – A play written about you but not for you

Posted by Kaahon Desk On January 23, 2019

Ekti Uttar Adhunik Samajik Pala’ is the name of the play. It is eminent from the name that there’s a trace of postmodernism in it, and the subject is obviously a social one. ‘Uttar Adhunik’ which literally translates in Bengali as postmodern. ‘In Bengali’ because Bengalis’ obsession with English teaches them to ask questions like ‘why don’t they teach Bengali in English’. I wouldn’t have dragged these stupid and widely discussed subject unless the ‘Samajik Pala’ (social play) in discussion wasn’t mounted to be a peculiar European play.

Is it necessary to discuss the jargons such as ‘Play’ and ‘Pala’ (play in Bengali) to understand the play itself? Of course not. Is there a problem with naming European plays with the Bengali term ‘Pala’? Not at all. Bengalis can term a biscuit that is rock solid and apparently contains no-cream-at-all, as Cream Cracker. Bengalis have nothing to do with names. ‘Pala’ and ‘Play’ both share the same consonants, and both of them have an air of performance about them. The vowels are different, so are the tastes of the performances. What’s there to be done? When the multiple opinion is obstructed to come out in our society, what is the point discussing the significance of vowels in a word?

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But the culmination of voices is as important as the consolidation of milk, which gives way to ‘Rabri’ (Honestly, what can be more important that Rabri?) How Rabri acquires it’s taste from the culmination of the layers of cream, is how society acquires its standard of living from the culmination of many voices. Some are trying to bring a social equilibrium even after being punctured by arrows, at least they are still dreaming after failing. The writer and director of the play Joyraj Bhattacharya is one of them. Although his dream is guided by the same old voice, socialism. Although it’s hard to term socialism as one-dimensional one.

In his dreams he is certain of the revolution, which will bring, from each according to ability, to each according to need. In that society the most confused will be the Media, because then every accusation and every claim of inequality couldn’t be marked and telecasted off as truths. But in his play he has clearly marked the position of the most intellectuals and politicians of Bengal. (How the media will be confused and what is the position of whom? Answers are present in the theatre.) A contemporary urge can be found in the dreams of Joyraj Bhattacharya, so can be conviction. Bengali Theatre is dangerously lacking in those aspects.

Now, this much can be understood that the play is a postmodern European play, written and directed by Joyraj Bhattacharya, there’s an effort to propagate the sound of social equality, the play refers to its time, and it’s a serious attempt none the less.

Now back to square one. The name of course ‘Ekti Uttar Adhunik Samajik Pala’. The first question that arises is, what does postmodern mean? In a nutshell, it can’t be described in a nutshell. (Google or click on Postmodernism). The subject will seem more complicated if you are not of academic background. Most of the intellectuals explain these terms very complexly (for no apparent reason). The people who aim to speak, for them with their limited resource, talent, and opportunity tend to show this tendency all the more. The funny thing is these works are meant to be for us (at least that’s what the intellectuals claim), and the double funny thing is they don’t really give a damn whether or not we understand. The discussion draws importance from the fact that, when people who are not average in wealth, talent, and opportunity create something for the average population which is outside the boundary of their knowledge, it generally reflects in two ways.

  1. They are pitying us, and the level of our knowledge and wisdom is an obstacle to their pity.
  2. Our lives are subjects of discussion to them. The agony of living and the pleasure of discussion go against each other; they are not really bothered about us.

It can be pointed out as the main problem of this play. That is why it is not possible to discuss it subjectively or objectively, or it’s better to say both of these discussions will dig up different but important points.

This play has been written keeping in mind the marginalized labour class, which implies that the proletariat will surely rise one day, revolution will come and a new Bengal and a new world will be created, but when presented to the common public, it is questionable how much of that implication can be perceived by them. The chemistry of the play (not the chemistry of the acting) is conserved in the construction of the play. There are certain references in this play, except which it is impossible to conceive the play wholly, but those references are often elite and not comprehensible by the general mass. The people who went to watch the play were mostly visibly educated and elite. Their use of language, their dressing sense, everything reeked of the conscious attempt to seem non-average. When a player has been constructed for the masses, and when the story of the proletariats has been performed over many shows, and still it draws an audience from only a certain class, it becomes clear to whom the play is most appealing.

The question arises, is this then the desired appeal? Then which of those above-mentioned speculations are true?

Upon further thinking two other points of views emerge.

  1. This play is a production. Productions are closely related to products. The scalability of the product is vital. To be honest, because of the dramatic kind of our past generations Theatre practice has been transformed into a pompous practice. Because of the easily available complete entertainment in T.V. and multiplexes, plays have been stranded into a no-mans land. Most of the present generation aren’t interested in theatre. On the other hand, people who are interested have an air of complacency. Naturally, the theatre has moved away from the common people and has been turned into the property of the above-average. Most of the modern theatre audience has a direct relation to the casts and the crews of plays they are going to watch. They believe that the simple facts are not so simple at all. They can’t derive enjoyment from a subject unless it has a certain degree of complexity. When selling to such customers it is infallible to construct a simply normal simplistic play. The subjects that don’t affect them directly (especially political matters) are their favourite cuisine (yes it’s as luxurious as cuisine). Therefore, as a marketing strategy of a product, this imposed complexity is quite appropriate.
  2. For many a year business is in functions where intellect and wisdom have been turned into capitals, commonly referred to as ‘Intellectual Capitalism’. These capitalists have avoided disclosing these terms and theories, to maintain their reverence. Now there’s no point saying that the common people can’t grasp these ideas. It is not suddenly possible to diminish a gap that has been created for generations. From the current standpoint of intellectual capitalism, if someone wishes to visualize a postmodern dream, then it is needless to say they will unwittingly but eventually place themselves further from the common people, unless and until they show the courage and power to explain the terms and theories like post-modernism in terms of simple understanding of life.

Is this play then no more than a product to tickle the so-called intellectuals? Or is it aimed at a smarter audience? Are they expecting the audience to take the first step? Are they even expecting such steps from the audience? What steps have they taken themselves? Are they warning the elite class? That the proletariat will rise again?

During the performance, such important questions appear and reside in our minds. There are hardly any answers when the play ends and it becomes another of those unsolved problems. But the relevance of the play depends on the answers to these questions.

This is a postmodern play in a proper sense. Scattered narratives, our historic positions, a suspicious outlook towards the traditional theories and theorists, reconstruction of history from a new point of view, above all questions aimed at our current ethical values… all of these are present in the production. Therefore, this play (if not in a performative then in a textual way) has a particular political standpoint. If you are a politically conscious academician, then this play is for you. But if you are not, then sadly it’s simply a play written about you; and not for you.

Once a certain old lady exclaimed her position in a blanket distribution mooting, organized by the ruling party- “Why do they rule this country like that? Where we have to beg for blankets instead of buying them? I spit on such begging.” The point is one’s political position does not depend upon understanding such complex concepts. Being politically conscious, desiring for equality, these are a kind of an instinct. If not, then they are certainly not so complex that they can’t be reciprocated in simple language. The problem is we complicated these things when we started selling intellect, and in turn started the same capitalistic cycle.

Therefore “Sadism is blooming in the garden, doesn’t go when shooed away.”

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: Harit Chowdhury

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