Mir Jafar – A Grandiose One Dimensional Historical Play

Posted by Kaahon Desk On February 22, 2020

‘Mir Jafar’ is Kalindi Bratyajon’s play. And some play it is! Laden with giants of Bengali theatre, huge sets, lights, chorus, music, and a colossal crowd. Watching these kinds of play makes you question the profitless, audience less whining of Bengali theatre on its deathbed. Is it just a figment of imagination? Recently the play was performed on 9th February, 2020 at Academy of Fine Arts stage.

Needless to say, ‘Mir Jafar’ is about Mir Jafar. After betraying Siraj ud-Daulah, an almost old Mir Jafar has just sat on the throne of Murshidabad. The play’s timeline focuses on those specific years between 1757 to 1764 leading to the Buxar war. Well, what can I say about the story, it’s all written in school history books. How Lord Clive in the name of protection, milked Mir Jafar to gain the stronghold over mines, taxation, looms and ultimately Bengal’s economy. The play depicts historical events like how Mir Jafar’s son Miran became obsessed with eliminating Siraj’s whole lineage from the face of the earth, how Mir Jafar’s son-in-law Mir Qasim betrayed his father-in-law and how they all died one by one. What can we do, when the dramatist is not giving us anything beyond the general information? At least those who have history exam coming up can spend close to three hours watching the play to revise the events.

Previous Kaahon Theatre Review:

Yet, the serialised events did have an opportunity to become a whole play. The play could focus on the rampant corruption in Bengal and how the betrayals for personal gain were pushing Bengal to a dark time. In this way, the play could become more tragic but a handful of generic people and their lives becomes the main focus of the play. We can still bear with it since the protagonist doesn’t always need to be a heroic character. But a play still needs some sort of conflict to achieve that dramatic effect. Stacking events after events can’t be termed as a play. These kinds of text are not expected especially from an experienced craftsman like Bratya Basu.

The great Gautam Halder has acted in the role of Mir Jafar. We all know about his acting mannerisms. But in this role, his mannerism has been used (has been used? Or he used?) to such an extent that it becomes a thing of discomfort at one point. As if the need of the character is not important, but the mannerisms’, is. Bratya Basu has acted in Lord Clive’s role and Kanchan Mallick in Miran’s role. We are highlighting these names because these are big names. Multiple times in the past they have produced specimens of incredible acting but even for them, the play this time didn’t offer much to work with.

But all of their acting is based on a higher scale (it’s so high that we had to crane our shoulders). The lighting and sound have been used on an even higher scale. Profile, LED PAR, PC, floor, FOH, all come together to create a spectacle. In terms of music, the tiger’s roar, thunder cracking, swishing of whips have been used with aplomb. But interestingly, Mehmood’s famous song (yes, it’s the same great Indian comedian Mehmood) ‘Why does it matter if I’m dark when I have a beautiful heart’ has been used in the play. Even lines from Jibanananda Das’ poems, Sunny Deol’s famous lines, Vidyapati in Tagore’s melody (or is it Sarala Devi’s?) have been used in the dialogue. Anachronism (a thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists as a reference) is supposed to be used to explain a situation in detail and to establish a connection with the audience. But we don’t know why the text has been designed like this here.

Bilwamangal Kabya- Modified climax in Girish’s play, inviting further modificationsYet, at the end of the day, scores of people love to watch precisely this. Otherwise how would you explain plays other than these not witnessing this kind of maddening crowd? Does that mean the audience are willing to overcome the lure of soap operas and metro crowd to make a production hit only if there are established actors related to it? Does that mean the audience don’t have any personal needs? Blinding lights, bright clothes and exaggerated acting – do all these superficial things matter only? Do they want just entertainment? I don’t know. But I think it’s about time we start thinking about this.

Ebong Ipsita
A Kolkata based theatre practitioner, she has been doing theatre from 2005 and now she is co-directing and adapting plays for different theatre groups in Bengal. She believes to explore the web medium as well to express herself to the world.

Translation: Biplab Mazumder

Read this review in Bengali.

বাংলাতে পড়তে ক্লিক করুন।

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