Rakto Upakhyan – Looking for open space than proscenium

Posted by Kaahon Desk On January 3, 2019

Directed by Kaushik Chakraborty, ‘Rakto Upakhyan’ was presented by Santipur Sanskritik on the Tapan Theatre on 22nd December as a part of the ‘Ganga Yamuna’ theatre festival; organised by ‘Aneek’. This collective of ‘Aneek’ have been organising this theatre festive for many years successively, and now it has crossed the boundary of Kolkata to organise the festivals in different districts, which is enabling people from other districts to watch various theatres, and in turn the people of Kolkata are getting to know about the theatre practices of other districts when those are invited to perform on the stages of Kolkata. Through this reciprocation the whole community of theatre is growing richer by the year, which makes it a really commendable effort.

Now let us begin with the ‘Rakto Upakhyan’ itself. This play was written some time ago on the backdrop of the Gujrat riot in 2002, but it could not be staged at that time. The current edition of 2018 is a result of some addition and appropriation of the previously written play, which rings as remarkably relative, and very important to the current perspective. This production shakes up our sleeping conscience and nonchalant senses, it forces us to see the everyday incidents that demean humanity, and the events we pretend not to see. The director forces us to feel the agony, and deep within the layers,our extended silence wants to scream out in the form of a sky-splitting uproar.

Previous Kaahon Theatre Review:

There are many things in the world, which are not easily describable, but through the skills of theatre they can be transmitted to the people easily. Here the writer has avoided any straight storylines, on the other hand he has used facts and emotions to weave this play and to present his subject to the audience effectively. In the beginning the director presents himself as a flat character to construct the prologue, and in the process he wipes out any boundary present between the audience and the stage to integrate the audience in the theatre itself. Past history and present times also lose their distinction somehow along the way. Violence, dispute, political conspiracy, xenophobia, riot, and brutality among other malevolent traits, and their continuations presence present themselves as the stories of our lives. So painful, and mutilated by repeated blows; this account has become truly an account of blood; ‘Rakter Upakhyan’.

The riot of the intersecting times of our independence in 1946, Godhra Incident in 2002, and the negation of millions of people in Assam from a particular community in the name of disputes created during the separation, and creating a national population account; somehow they all seem to align together and merge. These incidents keep on repeating themselves, guising themselves under the veil of time, and for eternity people keep on carrying their weights upon their chests.

To materialize the wishes of some megalomaniac political leaders a line was drawn to tear our country into pieces, it was divided into a land of ‘ours’ and ‘yours’. Our birthplace was mugged away from us by a handful of strangers, but why? What right did they have? There was no scope to ask such questions, muffling up what was welling up inside we had to come to the other side, leaving our possessions. We were transformed into immigrants. Life was difficult and at times unbearable in those immigrant camps. It is not only a painful memory from the past, as our current times also reflect images of similar degree. The all-powerful state is still trying to impose their wishes on the people. The freedom of thought is still being violated. Diversion from the static rhetoric is earning the tag of anti-national. The people of our country have been unable to realize the religion they have in their hands, they have rarely learned to love it even; they have been afraid of their own religion, and using this some people have carried on with their feuds, riots, rapes, murders, and other despicable acts in the name of god. The common people have become used to adjusting to everything, their conscience, thoughts, and consciousness have been trapped inside the jail that is the human mind. This play calls upon us to free ourselves from such confinements. This production gives voice to the people who are muted by their surroundings, who have their backs pressed against the wall, and enables them to scream out loud in unison. But the scarcity of audience in the theatre is saddening. This play, because of its format (non-illusive flat lighting and very minimal stage design), can be easily arranged in an open space considering the fact that it can be more impactful, and more accessible to people.

Quite a few beautiful moments are present in the play as a result of well-adjusted choreography. Woven with skillful composition, its scenes have become able to express amply with ease. The dual role of the actor who played both Jinnah and Nehru with the variation of the cap, or to signify Gandhi with his cutout pasted on a stick signifies intelligent application of resources. The proper use of Rabindranath, and Shankha Ghosh’s writings has enriched this effort. A collective of roughly twenty individuals; most of them quite young, have woven this play beautifully with their collective acting under the disciplined guidance of the director. Their discipline, passion for their work, effort, and professionalism is something that certainly catches the eye. Ujan Chattopadhyay’s music has played a vital role in the process. The vibrant sound of Drums, Dhols, and other musical instruments makes a direct impact with the soul. Needless to say, the production has used live music throughout. The voice of Ujan also meets the ears with ease. The dialogues have overlapped with the music at times, making it difficult to make them out properly. It is an important factor that needs pointing out, and further care in the future.

In the end the coexistence of love and hatred is signified with presence of water and fire on the stage. Either love or hatred, the decision lies upon us, and this is exactly what thisplay tries to convey to us.

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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