In the context of theatre production, editing of the text can either destroy a great play or enhance a weak one. An intelligent director would easily spot parts of a text that could entertain the audience, might not be too interesting, must be altered to fit the need of the epoch and that, if omitted, would erase the flavour and essence of the production. Nowadays where mostly timeworn, famous, heavily discussed and executed plays are being staged (just somehow) instead of original ones, the directors must thoroughly concentrate on the issue of text editing.
The style of theatre has changed with the need of the era and so has the ways of expression. Only about 60-70 years back, besides classical plays, productions used to be lengthier and grander. Characters used to be much more in number than that in the present time. Playwrights characterized their texts with a huge range of emotional complexities and in-depth dialogical expression. Nowadays, the audience neither has time nor has the patience/habit to watch something for too long. Along with these, the director either has a lack of actors or a lack of common days to rehearse where he gets all the actors together. And above all, a detailed emotional complexity in today’s theatre productions is being considered “boring”. Therefore, what the director, who can’t get in touch with contemporary playwrights, must have knowledge of is text editing.
Previous Kaahon Theatre Review:
The aforementioned issue has utterly been felt in the play ‘Kabira’ directed by Dani Karmakar and lately produced by Rabindranagar Natyayudh. The latest performance of this play was happened on 3rd January at Ajitesh Mancha. It has been adapted from the play ‘Kabira Khada Bazaar Mein’ (Kabira Waiting at the Market) (1981) by famous Hindi playwright Bhishma Sahni. Karmakar hasn’t quite adopted the play though; rather he has produced it by editing parts of the original play to fit his needs. The play is a biography of Kabira – the 15th century poet, saint and one of the leaders of the Bhakti movement in India. The only wise decision that the director has taken about the play is to not translate it into Bengali or modernize it (Very few writers can create good adaptations). But he has had to edit the text since the original play is quite lengthy. The director, while editing, might have been oblivious of that fact that carelessly managing a plot of birth, death, marriage and conflict doesn’t assure a successful and quality production.
Saint Kabira’s life, his philosophies and thoughts were very unique. Even after following Islam, he became the face of the Bhakti movement begun by the Hindus. His dohas could also be found in Sikh scriptures. In fact, he looked beyond religion and caste and preached humanity, which is why his writings are still famous in the 21st century. Unfortunately, religion is the most talked about subject in the political realm. In those times, the Brahmins in the Hindu society were enjoying their privilege while the Muslims were gloriously growing their beards and maintaining their sacred code of conduct. In that same time, if the lad of a weaver, brought up in a lower class Muslim family with no proper lineage, starts preaching people to rise above religion and believe in humanity and becomes popular, it is bound to make the people from both the Hindu and Muslim communities furious. All the rage, hence, comes down on Kabira. Both the communities feel the need to eradicate him.
It’s obvious why the play is still needed in the contemporary society. This is the interesting fact with great texts – they are made up with such fine elements that they cross the boundaries of the present and remain equally relevant in the future. However, the director has confined the whole production within Kabira’s birth, death and marriage with an ounce of conflict. Thus, neither could the relevance of the text be established nor could the actors establish their own characters. An actor must get proper dialogues and stage time in order to establish his character. But here the actors didn’t get any scope to do so. Although the protagonist Shambhunath Shaw seemed to have the required potential, the plot ends no sooner than it begins. Usually comfortable in Bengali, the actors, even during the short span of time they appeared on the stage, stuttered while delivering dialogues in Hindi. (Actors have to work so hard to make ends meet that there’s hardly time for rehearsals.)
There’s nothing to comment on the set, lights or music. Probably, the experts didn’t know what to do or the director didn’t know what he wanted. As a result, the audience got irritated and wanted it to stop. Some spectators had even whispered, “What’s the point in producing such a play?”
Harsh reviews could have been avoided but the increased number of below-standard theatre productions has compelled us to state it clearly. We don’t know whether new plays would be performed in the future, if directors would still bathe in his own power, if the scenario would ever change of losing grant money if 3 productions aren’t staged in a year or whether actors would still say, “I’m into theatre because I can’t do anything else.” Till that phase arrives, if you watch poor and weak productions, advise their directors to take a gap and watch others’ works. It is your duty, too, as an audience, to distinguish between honest, dishonest, poor and strong productions. Watch great plays and support quality theatre.
Translation- Kankabati Banerjee