Lakkhir Bahon – Relevant classic storyline, lacking present-day expressions on stage

Posted by Kaahon Desk On December 1, 2019

On 24th November, 2019 at Lady Ranu Mookherjee auditorium, Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata, ‘Lakkhir Bahon’, presented by Theatre Workshop, was staged. The play is an adaptation of a story with the same title by Parashuram, written by Anil Saha and directed by Kamal Manna. Ashok Mukhopadhyay, the veteran thespian and director and the main man of Theatre Workshop, graces the chair of advisor. This is a review of the first production of the play staged on 31st March, 2019 (Academy of Fine Arts).

Rajshekhar Basu (1880-1960) aka Parashuram was not only the most acclaimed satirist and comic writer of Bengali literature but since he himself was actively engaged in science, his works are extremely measured and subject-specific. In his works he basically targets societal norms and behaviors, lack of moral values and corruption. Although his stories are set in real world, he takes up its petty deviations and creates an exaggerated parallel world of caricature out of them, presenting them to the readers in a comic light. Lakkhir Bahon is a story set in a city in Bangladesh during the Independence, consisting of characters like, two disputant dishonest businessmen, a greedy brother, a righteous wife, a spoilt child, a sheltered brother-in-law and a corrupted lawkeeper. The degradation and moral deterioration illustrated in the story is still very relevant to this day, which might be the reason why this story was chosen for adaptation. Anil Saha’s adaptation has largely followed the narrative of the story-recounted in a flashback, with the brother-in-law Tarapada acting as a narrator to the tale. He at the very outset informs the audience that Parashuram has claimed this story to be set in the era of ‘Punditji’ but the audience might sense some contemporary vibes as well! And to make it even more apparent, the character of spoilt child Lakha is transformed into a member of construction material supplier ‘syndicate’, references of ‘Paribartan’ come up in his dialogue, and some familiar names too are mentioned! The rest of the events in the play and the characters’ attires clearly point towards the mid-20th century, with the only exception of Lakha who in his dress-up and attitude undoubtedly appears to be a contemporary character (Dress design: Arun Banerjee). That a dramatization would naturally resuscitate the relevance of an old story is expected but if such direct measures are taken to make it thoroughly perceptible to the audience, doesn’t that somehow imply a genuine lack of conviction among the makers towards their own understanding of theatre?

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When Parashuram gives his characters unusual names like Muchukunda Ray or Kriparam Kachalu, or places an owl to be the centre of dispute between them, it is through them that the parallel world of the story is embroidered. Delineating this world on the stage with due credibility is a tough task- it demands a particular style of stage, light and music design and above all acting. But unfortunately, this play fails to deal with any such compelling applications whatsoever. To some extent only Nil Kaushik’s stage design has a touch of metaphysical, projection of an owl in the background and the use of three monkeys were perfect but not enough to elevate the overall presentation. In fact, apart from this background, the rest of the stage is pretty conventional. Both Dipankar Dey’s light and Anindya Nandi’s sound are quite average. In terms of acting, only Jagabandhu Chakraborty in the role of the servant Anath gives a convincing performance and so does Nilabha Chattopadhyay to some extent in the shoes of Tarapada. The character of barber is made to limp, which is a very common comic trope but he seems to gain balance while leaving the stage. Ashish Mukhopadhyay in the role of Muchukunda disappoints the most; he appears to be exhausted and tired throughout the play, which is totally inappropriate for his character. And for quite a long period of time he keeps delivering dialogues sitting on a couch onstage which visibly stagnates the play. Jon Mukhopadhyay as Lakha and Krishnagati Chattopadhyay as Kriparam Kachalu appear stereotypical in their acting. On the whole, the play is no better than the average club plays of the 70s!

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Why should a theatre group select a story by Parashuram? For its relevance? Then why should it be adapted in such a way that for the audience to perceive, it needs a clear proclamation? The reason might be some new interpretation of the story or a new way of looking at it! But that attempt could nowhere be found throughout the play! So was the play selected only to use the name of Parashuram and the humor in the story? Really surprising it is, since it is the same Theatre Workshop that has gifted the audience plays like, Chak Bhanga Madhu, Alibaba or Bela Abelar Golpo! We sincerely hope that the new generation will help the group regain its lost glory soon.

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- Rishav Dutta

Read this review in Bengali.

বাংলাতে পড়তে ক্লিক করুন।

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