Garal – A socially responsible group theatre

Posted by Kaahon Desk On February 29, 2020

Producing successful productions for five consecutive decades is a highly challenging task for any theatre group in Bengali theatre. ‘Rangrup’ had taken that challenge and actually succeeded in meeting that. This is the Golden jubilee year for Rangrup. They have responsibly carried on what Gautam Mukhopadhyay and Shubhashish Mukhopadhyay started back in 1969. In this fifty long years of journey, till date, they have staged over eighteen hundred shows of total 34 productions. On this 51st anniversary, they have brought their latest production, i.e., ‘Garal’. It is an adaptation of one of Sayantani Putatundu’s short stories by Mainak Sengupta, edited and directed by Seema Mukhopadhyay. The last performance of this play happened on 18th February 2020 on Academy stage. This review is based on the second show of the play staged on last 19th October at Girish Mancha.

Previous Kaahon Theatre Review:

Bhaskar Majumdar, descendant of a Zamindar family and formerly a reputed barrister, now lives in a monumental tottering house with his wife Nilima, only son Babai and an old attendant Gupi. Due to a car accident, Bhaskar is now completely bed-ridden and paralyzed. Nilima takes care of him with utmost love and devotion. Her excessive affection towards his son Babai has turned him into a spoilt brat of sorts and he now mostly stays outside even at nights. The mother spends sleepless anxious nights but that anxiety never affects her composure in any way. And the days went by thus. But all of a sudden one night a terrified Babai comes back home and breaks down to tears. He says that he and his friend Kamalesh had raped and murdered a girl. He asks his mother for a shelter to stay away from the police. His mother assures him. Days pass by after that but Babai never shows up. His mother waits for him. One needs to go and watch the play to know what happens in the end.

Sayantani Putatundu is rather a new name within the Bengali literature premises, but she has succeeded in making a mark of her own with her uniquely smooth style of storytelling already. Her works simultaneously bear dark shades and an effort to deliver social messages at the same time. In this adaptation of her short story, to make her message more clear to the audience, certain refinements and editing have been done to the source text and therefore giving a separate dimension to the text altogether. The play begins very naturally. As it moves forward, the mystery intensifies. The end not only shocks the audience but also hammers down at their very senses. The play becomes relevant with the issue of sexual harassment of women. The play rises above personal relations, love and emotion, and gives way to the idea of social responsibility. Human values and ethics show us the right path and shape actual relationships. Through the additions and refinements done during the adaptation of the story, the play has acquired a character of its own but nowhere do they tamper with the spirit of the story. The director has avoided all sorts of contrivance and has instead gone for a very simple presentation of the play onstage. The twist in the end has succeeded in creating a shock within the audience. But it would be appropriate not to consider the end as a possible solution to the concerned problem but to be more thoughtful in studying the symbolic application of it.

The acting needs a special mention in this play. The play stands chiefly on Nilima’s (Seema Mukhopadhyay), Bhaskar’s (Jayanta Mitra) and Gupi’s (Jagannath Chakraborty) acting. Seema Mukhopadhyay is undoubtedly exceptional. We have already witnessed her flair for acting in her portrayals of multiple notable characters in the past. She has used her experience onstage to credibly construct the character of Nilima in this play. The character being an affectionate mother, a caring wife and also a lady with strong determination at the same time, appears to be perfectly real and a dynamic one in that sense. Mukhopadhyay has brought credibility to the character’s age with the use of a particular style of articulation and movement. On the other hand, the character of Bhaskar appears to be quite one-dimensional one and so Jayanta Mitra through oral acting only could fairly portray his character. He has quite nicely captured the ‘Zamindar-ish’ aura and the helplessness due to physical incapability in his portrayal of the character. His acting reminds us of the character of Rajaninath in the play ‘Alakanandar Putrakanya’. Jagannath Chakraborty has invested huge effort to delineate the character of Gupi in this play. The consistency in his acting (injured leg) throughout the play is laudable. But the director’s influence, in terms of acting style, was glaringly visible in both Bhaskar and Gupi’s acting. But this tendency of ‘director-oriented’ acting is a very common practice of Bengali stage! The character of Kamalesh makes a brief appearance onstage. Apurba Kumar Saha, by distinctly portraying two different sides of this same character, makes a mark of his own. But the question that does arise here, is that, is it even possible for a person to speak politely and in an effortlessly refined tone with no peculiar accent who basically has a rough and impolite tone and a distinct accent? Had there been an attempt to tone down the politeness in acting in the first half a bit, in order to attain a parity between the two halves, the acting would have appeared far more convincing and compelling.

Mir Jafar- A Grandiose One Dimensional Historical PlayNoted thespian Arun Mukhopadhyay’s music composition has immensely graced the play. Use of ambience sound has wonderfully created numerous dramatic moments and the atmosphere the play so demands. The music, blending beautifully with the movement of the play, has helped the play keep up its flow and direction. Sandip Suman Bhattacharya’s realistic stage design has credibly brought the essence of an old tottering mansion onstage. Bhaskar’s room is on one side of the stage and the kitchen is on the other one. Detailing in the stage design is appreciable. Light design by Badal Das has gelled well with the music and stage. Primarily projection of Low light according to the mood of the play has been used in here. Projection of light has an exclusive significance in the play. Md. Ali’s Make up plays a crucial role too.

If we pay close attention to Rangrup’s productions till date, we can observe how they have been thoroughly careful in there subject selections. Their endeavour has always been to create an awareness within the audience about numerous social problems. The present production is also of no exception. Of course not all of their past productions have attained the similar height, but there are certain works that have left an indelible impression in our minds forever. Their effort to be mindful about the social responsibility while choosing topics for their works is certainly commendable. We sincerely hope that they will be this consistent in their efforts in the future as well.

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: Rishav Dutta

Read this review in Bengali.

বাংলাতে পড়তে ক্লিক করুন।

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