Khajanchibabu – Bengali literature on Bengali stage; a relief from foreign dramas and films

Posted by Kaahon Desk On December 20, 2019

‘Barasat Kalpik’ presented their latest production ‘Khajanchibabu’ on last 30th November in the intimate space of Tripti Mitra Natya Griha. The short story of Tarashankar Bandopadhyay is adapted by Supriyo Sur, directed by Anuran Sengupta.

Tarashankar Bandopadhyay is one the best fiction writers in Bengali. Most of his works deal with the issues of societal changes. They emanate the real picture of ignorance, negligence, illiteracy and superstitions deeply rooted in the fabric of society. ‘Khajanchibabu’ details how the rules and mores of the ‘New’ strike out the practices of the ‘Old’. In the playfield of reality, once you are no longer needed, you are immediately abandoned, rejected like left-overs—this depressing situation at the workplace constitutes the crux of this story. In the source text, the scene of Khajanchibabu (cashier) taking his leave from the firebricks factory at Manbhum is so unostentatiously described that it moved the readers. In due course of time, the old has to give way to the new; that is the universal truth. In his every single step, man encounters multiple hardships and yet he vies hard to escape the clutches of death. Not a single person wishes to leave this dear world but they have to anyway. This is the prime and primordial tragedy of human life in this world governed by the rules of life and death.

Previous Kaahon Theatre Review:

When a new director from this younger generation tries to adapt a story written so long ago and bring it on the stage, what naturally concerns us the most as the audience is the presentation. Will it be an adaptation of the story just as it is, keeping the character of the time, place and action unchanged? Or will it be presented in a new form with certain alterations wherever needed? The writer and director have set the play in the present but kept the character and place similar to that of its source text. The play starts with a pleasant exposition. It starts with what the story ends-the departure of Khajanchibabu. Then he as a narratorial voice recounts his days in the firebricks factory and the story unfolds with parts of those memories as flashbacks being enacted onstage. Beginning with the end is not so unfamiliar a practice on Bengali stage, just an attempt to break away from conventions. Two actors play the role of Khajanchibabu, one as the narrator and another in the flashbacks. Undoubtedly a cinematic application it is but a clever one that blends with this medium nonetheless. But adapting an old story into a play set in the present entails a responsibility to be aware of certain things. Use of mobile phones, name-dropping Kolkata Metro or computers, reactions regarding some contemporary events or humming some present-day film songs only do not reflect the present. Naturally, the whole play lacks credibility since the dialogues and behaviors of its characters are completely devoid of any contemporary touch. There has been no attempt to interpret the story by Tarashankar, instead the story has been given a modern touch-up. There is no need to relocate a story set in the past to the modern day. If the message or the sentiment is contemporary, the audience will be clearly able to relate to it. But if you need to relocate at all, you have to make use of your imagination more carefully, otherwise negligence becomes apparent. Coming together of the two Khajanchibabus, their conversation and departure, with which the play ends, are very significant. This scene is suggestive of ‘Death’, the dreadful culmination of all human lives.

শব চরিত্র কাল্পনিক – তারুণ্য, উৎসাহ, উদ্দীপনা, উদ্ভাবনায় ভরা একটি নাট্য প্রযোজনাThe overall standard of acting in the play is pleasant. The actors’ pronunciation, articulation and bodily expressions are evocative of thorough perseverance and diligence. There was a similarity of acting between Khajanchibabu-1 (Anuran) and Khajanchibabu-2 (Aniruddha), a commendable work by both of them no doubt. Pubali’s mawkish overacting in the role of beggar woman appears very incongruous next to others. It becomes more apparent due to the absence of any other female characters in the play. Arnab’s simple light design with limited sources was very soothing. The play’s movement blends well with Souvik and Debargha’s careful use of stock music. Debabrata Banerjee’s suggestive stage design bears the touch of intelligence. Marking the change of scenes by repositioning one single three-wheeled door frame is fascinating, and nowhere does it hurt our believability.

In recent times, in the arena of Bengali theatre there is an ever growing tendency of either presenting poor translations of foreign plays or plain copies of films or introducing petty ideas to reduce it to an insignificant medium of entertainment. In the thick of that, ‘Barasat Kalpik’, a group of talented theatre-loving youngsters, is doing a commendable job of producing plays from Bengali literature with honesty and determination. Now it is high time for us (audience) to assess our readings of the plays, good or bad, with logic, reason and judgement and help the Bengali theatre come out of its artificial confines and develop as a unique art form.

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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