Mesh Manush Kaahon – A “fantastic” experimental theatre

Posted by Kaahon Desk On January 14, 2019

‘Bhimrati’ introduced themselves as a new consortium in the world of Bengali Theatre, on 24th December with their first production ‘Mesh Manush Kaahon’, a play directed by Nayana. This production is a theatrical amalgam of three short films; the amalgam is constructed by Dipankar Sen (with due credits). Two of these films (‘Oh Sheep’, and ‘Lambs’) are animated productions by German Filmmaker Gottfried Mentor, and the third film is named ‘Two and Two’, which is directed by the Brit-Iranian filmmaker Babak Anvari. The creators have threaded these three stories together chronologically, with the introduction of some theatrical elements in an attempt to present the audience with a complete theatrical experience. The perpetual equation between the ruler and the ruled is the main theme of this production. Contextually, this production is presented as an intimate theatre; therefore the audience shares the space with the actors and the sound people.

Previous Kaahon Theatre Review:

The first part of the play is silent, and everything is expressed through choreography. How authority corrupts its subjects by propagating disunity, and provoking them against each other to maintain their oligarchy- is reciprocated by the actors with silent movements and designed sound, to the audience. Symbolic use of colour reminds us of the agony of separation. The coupled dancing of the two masters before entering the main subject seems a bit stretched, especially if we consider the smaller concentration span of the modern audience; but upon consideration, it can be said that this extra time helps the audience to alleviate a bit. Before the director attracts pointed attention, it gives the audience time to cogitate a bit. In this part the possibilities of intimate theatre have not been properly explored. As the theme of this composition is to show the fission between two portions, one wonders if a bigger impact could have been created with the help of the audience’s total visual range and stage lights in the form of proscenium theatre.

The second part is not silent, but it does not contain any dialogue also; only a few vocal sounds have been used, with a noticeable decrease in the theatrical abstractness. In this part the rulers have succeeded into creating a total domination, all of them communicate in the same language, in this situation a new voice comes into existence among them. And the proprietors of this new voice realise that they are not alone. In this segment some articles were arranged beforehand to infiltrate the audience, but it cannot be said to have attained the full effect.

The third part has lesser abstractions and contains proper dialogues (the gradual evolution of the craft of theatre throughout the three parts is noticeable).  The oligarchy wants to make sure everyone speaks their language only, while a rebellion is wielded by the proprietors of the different voice; a quest which requires risking their lives. The subject of the play which is ‘Institution’; is no longer remains bound by the symbolic schoolmaster, but it seeps beyond the limits of space and time to represent something universal. Taking advantage of the intimate space, actors were scattered amongst the audience, but there’s scope for further audience involvement.

The subject is very relevant, but because it’s an adaptation from films, there’s a persistent scope for further discussion. The primary innocence of the first story could not be kept intact, but that is difficult considering; it is easier for the audience to accept a sheep as a sheep when it’s an animated drawing on the cardboard, but to consider an actor dressed as a sheep to be a real sheep there’s an extra step of abstraction is required. To embed the second film in the play a parallel universe has been constructed through choreography. There’s excellence in this creation. What is the significance of the cycle of time that is presented to the audience at the very beginning? Is it indicating the history of our civilization, or the cyclic repetition of the same story? These ambiguities left in the storyline help to stretch the radius of the story. The connection with time and its significance is ever-present in the sound design. The use of uncomfortable sounds at proper timing calls for praise. The third film has been kept almost intact, the final scene is quite cinematic and it has been embedded in the production with a fairly theatrical transformation. The initial vastness of the range from which the play emerges at first, has been shrunk subsequently to turn it into a story of mere story of rebellion, which leaves behind a taste of incompleteness.

On a whole it is a fantastic experimental effort. The culmination of the motivated young actors deserves applause. The construction of the parallel universe could have gained more credibility in proscenium theatre, but staging a production of large scale has become exceedingly difficult in the current financial environment (probably because of other reasons too) for newer and smaller groups. Application of available resources for self-expression is therefore very important in current scenario. From that point of view, the production seems to have followed the right path.

There will be expectations of further cultivated and independent thought provoking productions from ‘Bhimrati.’

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: Harit Chowdhury

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