Rangtar Mukut – Old school theatre creates distance with youngsters

Posted by Kaahon Desk On December 29, 2019

A clear visual division within the Bengali theatre is apparent these days: Theatre of the old school and the new ones. Obviously ‘old school’ does not mean backdated, neither does ‘new’ connote being modern and smart. We mean theatre productions by people senior in terms of age and experience and by younger ones. According to new theatre learners, this division is quite obvious in recent productions. This is not a division of quality but of language, representation and most importantly, of essence. And therefore we have to admit that since this division is so evident in the productions, it has understandably divided the audience as well. Some productions attract only a younger audience, whereas others pull in an elderly one.

Previous Kaahon Theatre Review:

We had this experience while going to watch ‘Rangtar Mukut’, the latest production by Paikpara Akhar. It has been staged in Tapan Theatre on the last 16th December, as a part of the Ganga Yamuna Theatre Festival. The play is both written and directed by Asit Basu, an important personality of the Bengali stage. But it saddened us to see mostly aged people in the audience. Only a handful was present who seemed to be under their thirties (or forties). The aforementioned demarcation becomes apparent with the enactment of the play as its execution, language, dialogue and design seemed to excite the elderly people in the audience but only to the discomfort of the younger ones. In fact, a couple of youngsters had dissenting views to the play’s message too as they believed both the essence and execution of the play appeared to be pretty conventional. Yes, reviewing a play must always be neutral. But it is undeniable that we being the young theatre learners, could not help but agree to the previously mentioned statement.

The play speaks of a dream; a dream of becoming the king by wearing a tinseled crown. It claims to be a modern fairytale. But nowhere does its execution come close to its assertion. The language of the play and the characters is quite old. It can remind one of the Bengali films of sixties and seventies. The way the play unfolds, the stage design, everything have a touch of the older times. A copy of Picasso’s famous artwork Guernica had been put up on the stage to noticeably represent the chaotic situation of the society. Drawing random instances of modern political crises, like Capitalism and Oligarchy and the common man’s plight under their influence accompanied by the adversities brought upon by the sold-out politicians in this commercialized environment create an impression that there have been deliberate efforts to make the play look modern. However, writer-director Asit Basu conforms to the conventions while looking for the solutions to these problems. The crisis of this age is presented onstage without its very own dynamics. All problems are too linearly delineated and it is advised that the answer to all these lies in the ability to have the courage to dream (similar to the belief that dreaming resolutely can bring us Communism).

But does that resolve everything? Has it ever? Daring to dream earnestly cost one of the main characters Haripada, the clerk, his own life; a severe injury in head makes him think of himself as the Maharana Pratap… It is his duty to protect his subjects, but how does his mental imbalance affect his family? How it jeopardizes his future…the director seems to have no answer to these pertinent questions. Dreams come with a price. But who is going to pay that?

The style of acting in this play is quite old school, it is not so much influenced by psychoanalysis or biomechanics (which is comparatively a modern process) but bears a balance since everybody followed a single technique. Tathagata Chowdhury, Abhijit Sarkar, Sudakshina Chowdhury and most of all, Asit Basu stand out due to their prominent performances. Light has been used mostly to illuminate the stage, only in a certain point of time a diagonal projection of light from actor’s right to actor’s left (might be PC) appears quite impressive. Music design by Murari Raychowdhury has been quite moderate and the use of the song ‘Dhao Dhao Samara Khetra’ from DL Roy’s Rana Pratap Singha still captivates our ears.

Ghum Nei: An old political play about Subalterns on Bhadralok’s theatre stageBut in the end, we have to admit that the visual and cultural experience of the new generation of the Bengali theatre (both learner and audience) is not limited within the boundaries of Bengal or even the country. We have to keep in mind that they have already watched web series like Black Mirror and House of Cards and films like The Life of Others and The Favourite. They are well acquainted with complexities and violence. They have learned to understand that in this 21st century no equation can be linear, no crisis has any previous counterpart and it is impossible to sum up a solution to any problem in a single line. But were those even possible earlier? There is nothing wrong in the old but if it fails to evolve with the new it will end up being backdated. However, it is only the old which has the capacity to keep us attached to our roots. Therefore, those who are senior to us in terms of age and experience, might have to be a bit more responsible.

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- Rishav Dutta

Read this review in Bengali.

বাংলাতে পড়তে ক্লিক করুন।

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