Jab Saher Hamara Sota Hai – A powerful theatre production

Posted by Kaahon Desk On March 8, 2019

Inspired from William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, Arthur Laurents in 1957 wrote a musical drama ‘West Side Story’. The 1961 film adaptation of the musical, directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, fetched multiple Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The play has been and is being staged and translated in different countries and languages because of the universality of its subject. The Hindi version of the play has been written and directed by noted theatre and film Actor and singer Piyush Mishra. Only a person of Mishra’s calibre could so aptly indianize this play.

On 30th January 2019, the play in its Hindi version has been staged at Girish Mancha by the Kolkata-based theatre group, ‘Akto’, as their latest presentation. Sridip Chattopadhyay has directed the play. It acts as a reaction against the intense religious intolerance and despotism lurking behind the facade of democracy across the political spectrum today. Since its inception (2015), ‘Akto’ has always expressed its awareness and responsibilities towards the society through its works like, ‘Orey Bihanga’, ‘Ae Mrityu Upotyaka Amar Desh Noy’ and ‘Trasta Nilima’ etc. The latest presentation is no exception.

Previous Kaahon Theatre Review:

The play projects a post-independent picture of the present generation youth, choked by the subdued anger, uncertainty and anguish of the everyday struggle and excitement of the age. On the other hand it also exhibits how the aggressive excitement of youth can be tempered by simple love. ‘Khanjar’ and ‘Faniyer’ are two rival gangs. Aslam leads the Karimpura-based gang ‘Khanjar’ and ‘Faniyer’ from Suhasdham is led by one Bilas. They engage in a tussle to take hold of a particular area. The groups hate each other because of their religious differences. At a party Tarana, the sister of Khanjar-leader Aslam, and Abhas, a member of Faniyer, fall in love at their first sight. Nobody of the either gang can accept this. Despite the complications, Abhas and Tarana continue to meet secretly and gradually their love deepens. In the meantime, both gangs prepare for a conclusive fight to resolve the conflict over the possession of the area permanently. What would be the future of Abhas and Tarana’s love following the fight that threatens the destruction of everyone near and dear to them?

Piyush Mishra’s ‘Jab Saher Hamara Sota Hai’ is essentially a musical based on songs and choreographs. Although director Sridip Chattopadhyay has abstained from presenting it as a musical, he has used some songs and parts of songs very effectively. The dance sequence of the titular song at the beginning is very well crafted. The brief episode of Abhas and Tarana’s duet dance to the song ‘Ujala hi Ujala’ creates an outstanding theatrical moment. The play is divided into multiple scenes and therefore scenes change rather frequently. The way these scenes are carefully changed and reorganized with minimal components, without ever interfering with the narrative flow, is clearly fascinating. The director has very methodically employed a bunch of new faces in presenting this play, thereby leaving a tone of discipline and perseverance throughout the play. Despite being non-Hindi speakers mostly, the Actors have dealt with the language of flawlessly which is a fundamental condition of rendering any presentation successful. A natural team spirit is undoubtedly observable in the overall production. The Actors have on the whole genuinely maintained a certain standard in terms of acting but a couple of them do tend to deviate, like, a certain amount of artificiality was discernible in the characters of Police and Chacha.

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The music plays a significant role in this play. The songs sung by Piyush Mishra create an entrancing ambiance, blending perfectly with the principle theme of the play. Certain parts of the live songs, sung in chorus along with the choreographies, at the beginning and end were honestly unperceivable, which should be paid attention to from next time. The light has been nicely adjusted to suit to the scenes’ demands. Its use in the dance sequences, coalescing perfectly with the songs, creates an aesthetic ambiance. A careful dress designing adds to the credibility of the characters as well.

We are in hard times now, continuously breaking apart from each other. Jealousy, conflicts, caste-based antagonism and religious fanaticism have spurred enmity even between closest friends now. The most alarming issue among all is even the state power is encouraging these animosities for petty political gains. And we are sitting blind with open eyes. This play is an attempt to arouse us from our deep slumber. In this context, this presentation by ‘Akto’ is a very relevant and important one. But to utter concern for all, only an audience of roughly twenty was present to watch the play. A rising tendency among the audience is noticeable these days. They seem to judge a play even before watching it. The yardstick of which is mostly the name of the group, director or presence of familiar television faces. Hence many worthy productions comprising sincere efforts and careful observations by comparatively smaller groups go unnoticed by the major audience. People are only thronging to productions of prominent groups, directors (gradually raised to prominence) and ones associated with multiple familiar faces, even if they are not that rich artistically. Therefore, it is the entire Bengali theatre world that is suffering the most. To change this picture, these plethora of smaller groups need to come together and pave a new path for the future of Bengali theatre.

Finally, I wish to thank ‘Akto’ for keeping a touch of thoughtfulness in the choices they make in terms of their productions. I do hope they will keep this up in future too.

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

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