Jera – Imitation of foreign movie on stage; lacks the credibility factor

Posted by Kaahon Desk On October 19, 2019

Shohan theatre group’s new play ‘Jera’ was staged at Girish Mancha on 22nd September, 2019. Based on Giuseppe Tornatore’s directorial ‘A Pure Formality’ (1994), the script has been written by Jagannath Guha and directed by Aanish Ghosh. The play is funded by Government of India’s Ministry of Culture.

Tornatore is a world renowned filmmaker, his ‘Cinema Paradiso’ (1988) is a cult movie. And even if you haven’t watched his ‘Malena’ (2000), you must have watched a few Indian movies inspired from it. But ‘A Pure Formality’ is quite an average movie, by Tornatore’s standards. Gérard Depardieu or Roman Polanski also didn’t get the opportunity to showcase their acting potential in it. The story is a bit of a suspense thriller intertwined with existentialist philosophy. However, the amalgamation doesn’t really shine through either. In a dark stormy night, we see a man running around and being arrested and brought to the station by the police where the officer questions him. The whole play trudges along with the confusions surrounding the man’s identity, whether he has committed the crime and whether a crime has actually been committed or not. The film’s technique is a lot theatrical, depends considerably on dialogues and the major portion of events occur inside the police station. But overall, the movie fails to sustain people’s attention. The disclosure of the real event at the end of the movie also robs the existentialist garb of the movie, which in turn makes the audience feel betrayed.

Previous Kaahon Theatre Review:

The reason I’m talking in such details about the movie is because the play ‘Jera’ is a scene by scene copy of the movie, including the dialogues. The only thing that separates them is the fact that the play doesn’t divulge the actual event at the end, thereby continuing its existentialist garb. A real existentialist play is expected to make the audience confused about their existence but the audience of this play gets confused about the play instead. Is the play originating from a clear understanding or is it just trying to project some vague ideas on an already vague concept as a way to a mere intellectual exercise? As I have said before, the source movie is rather boring to begin with. The transitions of scenes with less dramatic fervour is quite normal in films. But the scene transitions on stage following the footsteps of the movie makes the play extra boring. Soumya Sengupta and Saibal Bandhopadhyay as the leads have tried their best in their limited capacity but it wasn’t enough to make the play more engaging. Hiran Mitra’s stage design has a blend of real and unreal. Soumen Chakrabarty’s attempt to work with less light is commendable but efforts could have been made to produce more darkness instead of light. Goutam Ghosh’s background music and Anindya Nandi’s sound effectively recreates the essence of a rainy night, but the whole scheme echoes the original movie. To be honest, for a production solely depending on imitation, its craft doesn’t leave much to talk about.

But we can definitely talk about a few other things, especially the points that are important for a dramatist during an adaptation of foreign movie or play. The milieu, the chain of events, the reactions of the characters, everything is supposed to change in regard to time and space. A simple solution to this problem is to keep the time, space, context and characters intact and just change the language medium to Bangla. The audience will realise that everything is foreign and Bangla is used for ease of comprehension. But the moment you Indianise a text, you can’t just stop at changing the names and dialogues. The milieu, context, characters, everything needs to have that Indian spirit. Otherwise, the authenticity will be questioned time and again. The poor Bengalisation of a foreign text was felt in ‘Jera’ throughout the performance. For example, imagine a police station in Bengal. A person is made to sit wearing handcuffs. After that, he’s given a glass of warm milk! It is pretty evident that the makers haven’t given much thought to these practical discrepancies. As a result, the play’s each second gives away the fact that it’s basically a foreign text which has been given a Bengali spin, unsuccessfully. To construct a Bengali production devoid of such oddities, one needs to invest more time and effort. Both the dramatists and directors seem apathetic. Is it their artistic failure or general lethargy (why work hard when we’re getting government grants) or is it a ‘taken for granted’ mindset regarding the audience, that is up for discussion. But as long as the audience is not becoming more conscious and demanding more attention from the makers to their craft, this problem seems to only fester.

Anahuta – A competent theatre production with overused storyline and formAnother thing deserves attention. The ad campaign has used the term ‘Based on Giuseppe Tornatore’. This is another new trend in Bengali theatre – ‘Inspired by Chekov’, ‘Based on Hadley Chase’ and so on. It’s hard to find why the makers want to avoid proper acknowledgment (1). What’s the harm in announcing the source text? Copyright? When has the Bengali theatre ever cared for copyrights anyway? Or do they think that if the source is known, then the audience will read or watch it beforehand? Then again, what’s wrong with that? It’s not hard to find the main source in this age of cheap internet anyway. Rather, this cheap internet has brought so many foreign texts to the common people, which also helps the ‘makers’. A lot of plays based on foreign, non-English movies are being staged in Kolkata right now. The effort to fulfill the deficiency of original pays, and original makers in Bengal is still at a standstill.

(1) Acknowledgment: Dr. Saikat Chakrabarty (Science Researcher and a Bengali theatre audience)


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: Biplab Mazumder

Read this review in Bengali.

বাংলাতে পড়তে ক্লিক করুন।

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