Kukurer Lej – Brims with songs and dance, lacks depth

Posted by Kaahon Desk On January 5, 2020

On the 27th December of last year ‘Kolkata Rangeela’ performed their new play ‘Kukurer Lej’, directed by Kaushik Kar, as a part of 22nd Ganga Jamuna Theatre Festival at the Academy of Fine Arts stage. Although this particular review is derived on the basis of 12th November’s performance on Girish Mancha. According to the director, the play has been written under the influence of one or two forgotten stories from magazines published a long time ago.

One of the stories’ author probably was Ramanath Roy.

The main story is satirical. It focuses on a corrupt political leader. A few lower class people in the social order have become ghosts after their deaths. They blame the political leaders for their misery and plan to punish them. The rest of the story is primarily about making fun of the particular corrupt leader. Does the leader finally change himself under pressure? Or is he just like the twisted tail of a dog, beyond any course of correction? Viewers have to watch the play to have their answers. The play has songs and dance and even the advertisement tells us beforehand that the play contains foul language. But the play’s biggest highlight is the indomitable energy of almost 20 performers on stage which at times moves the audience as well. Their extremely quick movements and jumps, songs and dances give us the feeling that the performers are genuinely enjoying themselves while performing with a celebratory spirit. The events in the play are very agreeable, kicking the political leader on his behind serves as wish fulfilment for the audience. Content-wise, the play doesn’t bring in new elements, so it doesn’t make the audience uncomfortable and in return they enjoy the play to the fullest. Samiran’s live music casts an opera like mood on stage, the song lyrics and rhythm too are very much captivating. Overall, it is a complete package of entertainment.

Previous Kaahon Theatre Review:

The play has used an unadorned stage. Costume is minimalistic, even props used are bare minimum. And despite using a lot of sources, the light scheme is constructed in a way that acting can be possible without it as well. Because of this kind of flexible presentation, the play can be performed beyond the confinement of proscenium. This show was only it’s third show, we expect the coordination between the actors to increase with time. The political leader’s right-hand, acted by Palash Karmakar, is a stammerer. But in different scenes, he stammers differently. Among the ghosts, only one character is ‘educated’, the rest are either from South 24 Parganas district or Bangladeshi refugees. Gambhira Bhattacharya is one of the strongest performers of contemporary times, but he is somewhat limited in the stereotyped character. A political debate was arranged amongst ghosts in order to provide a dose of politics to the viewers, the impromptu clapping and cheering of viewers go on to show that instead of relishing proper dramatic moments, viewers are more interested in listening to these kinds of animated speeches. Slew of foul languages, exposing underwear are all obviously a show of protest but the reaction it evokes in the audience is more of jeering and cheering, which is far removed from the actual intention.

It’s undeniable that Bengali theatre is facing aversion from audience. Those who are part of a theatre group go to watch other group’s works. Everyone’s trying different ways to bring the new generation to theatre. Watching this play also gives away its extreme efforts to connect with the audience. When we enter the theatre before the start of the play we see actors walking about on stage, talking to the known faces in the audience. Then the speech directed towards the audience starts! Incidentally, director Kaushik Kar in all his directed plays, delivers a small lecture before the start. It’s like the play’s ‘made easy’ version that talks about the content, its purpose, his expectations from it, the usage of slangs, among many things. This ritual sort of thing finds its ultimate expression this time with an extended lecture at the end of the play. The audience gets to know how fearful he is about the current situation and how many days he was left hungry. Instead of this chest thumping narcissism, if the play was constructed to actually make the audience relate to the frightening nature of reality, then these animated questions like ‘Aren’t you feeling scared?’ directed towards the audience could have been avoided. He’s as fluent and strong as the political leader in the play as he is weak and artificial in this speeches after the play.

Kukurer Lej - Brims with songs and dance, lacks depthThis type of satirical play becomes effective when the audience can see their reflections in it and can realise that it is targeted towards them. In this regard, Kukurer Lej, despite being a thoroughly entertaining play, falters. The reason might be in the content of the play. Plays featuring this kind of events were rampant in the 70s and 80s, probably as an outlet to the disillusionment in the post-independence period. Modern period is also a period of disillusionment. Liberal economy couldn’t fulfill man’s expectations. But today’s hopelessness should be perceived with today’s eyes. Only then can the audience relate to the play instead of just merely enjoying it and go home after it.

And we plead to the theatre lovers of Bengal – if you want to laugh at every foul slur, applause every catchy dialogue or filmy hero-like things, then the makers will be convinced that you only want these things. Then how will they motivate themselves to make a real, thought provoking play?

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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