Laharir Rajhangsha – A competent staging of a timeless drama

Posted by Kaahon Desk On April 5, 2019

Produced by Abhaash Dakshin Kolkata, and directed by Shekhar Samaddar, Laharir Rajhangsha was presented on the Academy of Fine Arts on 3rd February. Shrabasti Roy has adapted this play in Bengali from Mohan Rakesh’s Hindi play Lahron Ke Rajhans, a distinct play in Hindi Literature. Mahon Rakesh drew his inspirations from Aśvaghoṣa’s epic ‘Saundarananda’ while writing this play. Although the subject is historic, the play demonstrates a profound manifestation of imagination. The current form of the play was written in 1968, but it has been refined throughout the course of next twenty years. Because of the Epic influence there’s a prevalent dominance of lyrical dialogues. The Bengali adaptation Laharir Rajhangsha retains this lyricism quite well. A contemporary conflict in Humanity has been represented here in a historical framework.

Previous Kaahon Theatre Review:

Gautam Buddha has returned in Kapilabastu for the first time after his attainment of Liberation. The people of the city are eagerly waiting for a glimpse of Buddha. In other news, Buddha’s half-brother has arranged a festival of desire, instigated by his beautiful, young, and conceited wife. All of the important people of the city have been invited in this festival. Nanda is effectively being torn apart between asceticism and his domestic duties, between his love (addiction) towards his beautiful wife, and Buddha’s guidance. He is unsure about which path to take, his beautiful wife tries to keep him tangled in her voluptuous spell. He hunts after a buck all day fruitlessly, only to find it dead in his way home. The reason of death; exhaustion. This incident troubles him greatly. Even when he is safe in his palace in the arms of his beautiful wife he longs for a meeting with Buddha. In the mean time it was made aware by the only attendee of the festival of desire Moyitreyo that all the other invitees would be unable to attend the event, as they will be huddling up to meet with Buddha. It hurts the pride of the great beauty greatly, and she succumbs to sorrow. Moyitreyo advices her to postpone the festival for a couple of days. The great beauty answers “this festival is a festival of desire, I cannot postpone the desired of today for the sake of tomorrows.” When Nanda comes to know about Buddha’s visit in his house and his unattended departure, he fails to remain nonchalant and rushes to Buddha to ask for his forgiveness. Bhikkhu Ananda initiates him in Buddha’s faith by the order of Buddha, through a process that includes shaving of one’s hair. Nanda goes through the whole process halfheartedly for the sake of his brother’s pride, and later proceeds to refuse it. Nanda’s beautiful wife is greatly affected by the whole affair and comes to think that all of her beauty, spells, and submission have been outshined Buddha’s theology. No one attended her festival of desire, she even failed to keep her husband. This internal conflict between Nanda and his beautiful wife gradually draws towards an explosive ending.

Mallabhumi- A good food for brain after long time, both in play and drama

Laharir Rajhangsha depicts the psyche of a man torn between the polar opposites, domestic pleasure and ascetic peace, and the conflicting interrelation between them. This conflict at times represents the conflict between two opposite sexes. The basis of construction of this play are dialogues and symbolism, the swan of the lakes and the dead buck are only such symbolisms. The symbolic presence of the swan in Shashanka and Niharika’s dance creates a beautiful contradiction. Acting is the primary pillar in any play’s presentation. Shekhar Samaddar’s acting in the role of Nanda places this play in a high esteem. He characterizes the dilemma of a man stuck in his life while having to keep his wife contended. And he was aptly accompanied by Kasturi Chakraborty in the role of Nanda’s beautiful wife. Expression of pride and contempt in the character was beautifully explored. A lesser degree of speed in movement and dialogue throwing while expressing the sauciness and cheerfulness of the character could have resulted in a better chemistry among the characters. There’s a predominant coordination between everyone’s acting which enriches the production. Oindrila Ghosh in the role of Alaka, and Hiranmoy Nath in the role of beggar Ananda deserve a special round of applause.

A sense of practicality reigns over the stage decoration of Soumik and Piyali. With the withdrawal of curtain, we find ourselves in the zenana of the castles of Kapilabastu. The whole of the play is acted in the same setup and in a single scene, which simplified the task of stage choreography, and the play can proceed in its desired speed without slacking off.

The lighting by Sudip Sanyal not only creates a beautiful ambience, it also adheres to the theme of the play beautifully. The background music of Swapan Bandopadhyay supports the visual landscape created by the stage and the lights, but fails to add an extra dimension of auditory drama, although this play had a scope for poetic soundscapes. A touch of antiquity is present in the costumes of Madhumita Dam, which adds a degree of credibility to the characters. The makeup of Mahommad Ali is also quite important.

Lights, stage, music, costumes, and above all the overall acting and the directorial sense combine together to create a successful play that is Laharir Rajhangsha. This play is a notable addition to the list of contemporary Bengali theatre. It is a wakeup call to our consumerist society trapped in the abyss of self-centeredness.


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 – Harit Chowdhury

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