Kalpurush – A proficient adaptation and staging of novel

Posted by Kaahon Desk On January 31, 2019

The trio of political novels– Uttaradhikar, Kalbela and Kalpurush– by Samaresh Majumdar is arguably the most notable of his all literary contributions and vibrant addition to the Bengali literature no less. Kalbela fetched Majumdar the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1984. The triad is a documentary of the political environment of Bengal stretching from the close of the 60s to the next two decades. Of this triptych, Kalpurush was staged by Krishti, as their latest production, on the last 13th January of this year. Adaptation and direction have been handled by Sitangshu Khatua. The last production of Krishti was an adaptation of Sharadindu Bandopadhyay’s historical novel Tungabhadrar Teere and it was lauded by the audience. Therefore, staging another celebrated novel as Kalpurush would rightfully raise the house’s expectation towards Krishti. It is needless to say that the benchmark that Khatua has set for himself by his previous work would naturally be the yardstick of this performance. Judging from that vantage point, this production may not have reached that stature of the previous one but it does substantiate the playwright’s natural proficiency in adapting novels. Accommodating the extensive text within a comparatively short expanse of a play without tampering the novel’s distinctive equilibrium and making it suitable for the stage, justly require expertise.

Previous Kaahon Theatre Review:

At the dawn of the 70s, a simpleton, Animesh, arrives at Kolkata from the suburbs of North Bengal and gets himself involved in the Left-wing Student Activism. Later on, he joins the Naxalite movement due to certain ideological differences. There he gets to meet Madhabilata. And eventually, they fall in love. Madhabilata reveres Animesh’s ideology. Ultimately Animesh, due to his involvement with the Naxalites, is arrested. The police torture Animesh to such extent that he is left crippled for life. He is finally released from prison after the Left Front Government assumes office in 1977. He, accompanied by Madhabilata, arrives at the slums of 3 Ishwar Pukur Lane. There is a scanty room, they live with their only son Arka. Animesh wishes to inspire his son to Socialism. Instead, Arka is led to the dark and antisocial ways of life by the political hypocrisy and murky social system. But he is soon awakened by the ideology he inherited from Animesh and the perseverance from Madhabilata. His simplicity, altruist nature and leadership quality encourages Arka to assemble the politically and socio-economically oppressed and exploited, inspiring them for a new and better life. He gives them hope for a wonderful future. But the megalomaniac political party and the society never want this hope to materialize. Hence Arka is put behind bars. The hitherto segregated people now come together to stand with Arka. Is it even possible to hold Arka- that means the Sun-captive?

Instead of prolonged scenes or dialogues, the play consists of concise and precise ones. The director while adapting the text has used poems, songs and dance as associations. Arriving at the beginning, middle and end, the dance sequences are remarkable in terms of choreography (PrasenjitBardhan), presentation, and aesthetics and also bear the touch of modernism. But how far they add anything to the performance is debatable. Using contemporary poems and songs does appear appealing at places but overusing them has demeaned their usefulness on the whole. Employing Suryavandana (prayer to the sun) at the beginning or hanging a lighted image of Orion at the left side of the stage hinting the name of the protagonist Arka and the play Kalpurush respectively is not suggestive of modernity. But the dramatic structure of the play does carry the incisive vision of the director. The way he has used almost the whole stretch of the stage is impressive. Using flashbacks to inform the audience of the past is admirable as well. Two brief scenes were enough for him to recount much of the past. The director has succeeded to create a handful of memorable dramatic moments which have developed the play to flourish.

The most notable feature in terms of acting is that everyone in this play has tried to maintain a standard in their acting; ultimately bringing out the picture of team effort. Some of them deserve special mention as well. Madhumita Sengupta in the shoes of Madhabilata is outstanding; bringing her character to life through her expression and effortless acting. Sumit Ray has pushed his limits to portray the fearlessness, sincerity and internal conflict of Arka. He appeared to rather stagger in the beginning but soon picked up the actual tune of his character. Tapati Munshi and GandharbiKhatua in the roles of Mokkhaburi and Urmimala respectively are impressive. SitangshuKhatua’s portrayal of Animesh somewhere seems to miss the disable idealist tortured by the police, although the incompatible make-up could also be the reason. But make-up and attire is commendable on the whole, especially with Mokkhaburi and Madhabilata.

The stagecraft of the play is carefully designed. The shanty-room is situated at the left back of the stage; the interlude like short scenes, with slight variations, take place on a high pedestal at the right back stage and at the bottom of it is the prison which is used only in the final scene. Since the play comprises numerous short scenes there are multiple scene changes but the rapidity and dexterity with which they are handled never interrupt the steady flow of the play itself. The songs (Sourav and Abhigyan) perfectly convey and uphold the essence of the play. Light (Soumen Chakraborty) has inimitably fulfilled the play’s demands. Music and light designing acquire accuracy in the hands of their respective interpolators. This production can boast of two such exemplary interpolators.

The novel albeit set against a political background of a particular period, conveys an eternal call for humanity. In a time when we, engrossed in such desperate egocentrism, are gradually drifting apart from each other, staging this novel would certainly question our perception, at least to some extent.

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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