Mrityusangbad – An un-interpretative enactment of a brilliant dramatic text

Posted by Kaahon Desk On June 21, 2019

Existentialist philosophers appear to be possessed by the questions of creation and existence of the universe, and that is especially the existence of Man, the sentient being in this world. When this existentialist philosophy got represented in literature and gathered popular attention, that focus was mainly onthe European literature. One important theme or aspect which came out from the existentialist European literature is living in the uncertain world, where the individual become out-synchronized with the codes of the society, laws, rules, illness, tragedy and finally ends to death. The usage of eclectic mode of expression called allegory within the realist narrative framework was developed in literature as an existentialiststyle by many writers; some random important names would be Jean Paul Sartre, Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, Nikos Kazantzakis; they all were influenced by Nietzsche’s philosophy of revaluation of all values.

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An Indian develops the essence of life, character, personality, purpose and the meaning according to Indian historical tradition, culture and value systems. The existential alienation/vulnerability has also been represented in Indian literature, if again some random names of writers may be taken such as Anita Desai, Arun Joshi and many more, but they all wrote essentially in English. Though in Indian languages, if we specify our search in Bengali, there is a treasure of existential literature.But unfortunately the Europe tailed mind of the Bengalis, even now, find the glamour and comfort in the European allegories and contexts to represent existentialist crisis in their art and philosophy. Hence the Bengal’s theatre fraternity generally goes for adaptation or translation of the European existentialist literatures to bring the subject of ego-cantered, aggressive, dualistic, alienating, possessive, manipulative nature of human living and utilitarian modern context of present days.A heartfelt gratitude is deserved by Ashoknagar Pratibimba, a Bengali theatre group, who did not walk on the same path, rather chose an existentialist drama Mrityusangbad written by Mohit Chattopadhyay for its new production.

The drama, within a context representing middle class mundane realism used human characters as allegories to show that the human mindsareno longer integrated;its divided, fragmented, schizophrenic, one dimensional. The dignity and honour of human existence which is crownedby the practices of traditions havebeen lost. Mohit Chattopadhyay, in this relatable realist narrative framework of drama, tried to bring out the fact that the human mindsare not free to choose meaning, responsibilities and the interpretations about the actions around them.

One of the main characters played by Krishnendu Adhikari quite successfully claims that he has killed his father and this act of killing is considered as one of the causes which providesmeaning of his being.The incident is celebrated as a true revolution by his love (an ideal free being) and her friends /relatives. Though eventually, the character is revealed to be schizophrenic and couldn’t kill his father (as it is impossible to destroy the power institutions, which shapes the essence of our lives). The other man who loves the same woman, played by Shantanu Nath is always afraid of recognizing his free self, as if the moment he realizes that he is condemned to be free, he might lose the purpose of his life.

Parthasharathi Raha, the director of the play has taken a stern political decision of not to go inside the text or go for any interpretative intrusion into the drama. Rather, he chose to keep the play within the style of straight enactment of the narrative details written by the playwright himself. He left the responsibility for the matured audience of theatre to decipher the allegories of the dramafrom the codes of writing.But this policy might invite another allegation, that if there is not any interpretative element in the representational discourse of the play, then why would the audiences choose to take an effort to go to the theatre to watch the play instead of reading it in private? The director has relied on the cognitive perceptions of the audiences to understand the allegorical quotient of the drama. The resultant of such reliance is that, audiences experienced different readings of the drama by Mohit Chattopadhyay on stage. And unfortunately, the majority of the audiences chose to rest their obedient attention to the narrative flow only gulping the middle class family story part of the drama, while it actually directs to somewhere else. The director, through the usage of stage craft and light, and breaking the narrative cause-effect flow of the enactment, could have inserted some poetic theatrical images that could give the hints to the audiences to read the drama. But somehow they have probably missed the actual strength of the text which is in an allegorical representation of the absurdity pointing towards a more absolute truth of traditional integrated view of human-beings and consequent alienation. Shantanu Nath’s performance has over exemplified the character’s vulnerable self and eventually became a comic relief for the audiences at moments.Probably, the audiences were supposed to relate to the character in different way becoming insecure in their existence being connected with him. The murder celebration moments which were embedded in the narrative as the most poignant theatrical lifts are not properly recognized by the audience due to absence directorial intervention. The dream sequences, which are there in the dialogues, utteredby Krishnendu Adhikari, have no support from proscenium theatrical tools like performance, light design or anything through which audience can separate them into pregnant metaphors. Though the stagecraft by Kneel Koushik, light design by Soumen Chakraborty, Music by Ujan Chattopadhyay had intended to provide the hints of metaphors, but the unobtrusive style directorial interpretations has probably resisted them to reach their goals.

Ekti Sohoj Khuner Golpo – An intimate theatre in the mood of reading story

In conclusion, the play by Mohit Chattopadhyay remained a “Play”to be read through the auricular and optic organsand that somehow indicates the entire effort has been failed to become a “Theatre”. Though the drama itself once again provokes to re-read and reinvent the wonderful literary creation of Mohit Chattopadhyay, whopersistently pushed every audience to question their shallow existence and identify the vulnerability.


Srijayee Bhattacharjee
A postgraduate in film studies from Jadavpur University, Research Project Assistant in Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies, a thespian, creative producer and a writer.

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