Return Ticket – A comedy with its limited worldview

Posted by Kaahon Desk On August 16, 2019

Return Ticket, a Bengali play presented by Natyaranga theatre group, was staged at Lady Ranu Mookherjee auditorium, Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata on 3rd August 2019. But this review is based on the show on 28th March 2019 at the same auditorium. Written and co-directed by Rajat Mallick, the play is edited and directed by Swapan Sengupta. The legendary Bengali thespian Gautam Halder has played the principal character of the play.

Previous Kaahon Theatre Review:

The play revolves around a psychiatrist named Dr. Anweshak Ray! Four different pairs of patients come to visit him concerning their mental problems and the doctor prescribes some modern, rather strange methods to cure them. And that is the ‘Return Ticket’! If one notices carefully, there is a caption attached to the name of the play- ‘A Fantasy Drama’. There are truly certain components of fantasy in the play, as it peddles an illusive dream; but in the play there is also an attempt to focus on the social incongruities. Therefore, it can be fairly dubbed as a Fantasy of Manners- where fantasy is coupled with a sharp analysis of societal conventions. The tone of the play is humorous as well, at least in the initial part it is intensely felt through its humorous dialogues and comic behaviors! Hence it would not be an exaggeration to call it a Comedy of Manners too. Almost the entire play takes place in an illusory space, in the chamber of the psychiatrist where although time and space is not clearly defined, that the environment is urban, is observable. Debabrata Maity’s efforts to build that fantasy world is perceivable in his stage design and it is complemented by the doorbell ‘Haribol’ which is at the same time humorous and awkward. The robot on the table and the excessively big mobile phone has been carefully used. The problems that the patients are suffering from are also very urban in nature- skepticism, suspicion, pride, doubt, fear, hostility etc. But the writer has shown no intention in delving deep into analyzing the causes of these ailments, instead has roughly accused laziness and joblessness as their source. Through some small scenes the audience is very quickly and effectively made aware of the problems that the patients were undergoing. But the two couples ‘Gentleman/Lady’ and ‘Boyfriend/Girlfriend’ have almost identical problems, whereas those of the others are more diverse. After the initial introduction, the doctor starts having conversations with individual patients and that constitute most of the play! This part heavily relies on acting and it is also the most attractive part of the play.

The presence of Gautam Halder is so compelling that irrespective of the play he acts in, he enraptures the whole house completely with his exclusive acting techniques. We are watching him on the stage for the past three decades now and every single character he plays has a peculiar tinge to it. His acting clicks the best with those particular characters that have that peculiarity in it, and fortunately it is one such character. Even his attire and make up too bear that characteristic (Dress design- Ranjana Das, Make up- Mohammad Ali, Sanjay Pal). According to the theory of Fantasy of Manners- what matters most is not what such a character does, instead what exactly he says! And Gautam is an expert in transmitting his dialogues to the audience using every single part of his body. The other actors too accompany him well enough. One of the most valuable components of comic acting is the timing and in respect to that Halder had a nice synchronisation with Sayantan Roychowdhury as the first Friend and Debapriya Bandopadhyay as the Girlfriend. In the roles of Gentleman and Lady, Timir Chakraborty and Baby Halder were impressive and so was Anindita Bandopadhyay as the receptionist Anusandhitsa Sen. The rest were rather flat. With the perfect blend of text and acting, the first part of the play becomes very entertaining.

Dana – Earnest effort theatrically but not in tune with present time

In the second part, this fantasy world is massacred by the cruel bombardment of stark reality; the writer and director had intended it so. Watching the scene closely where the doctor first meets the reporter reveals that the director gave serious thought to this overlapping of fantasy and reality. In fact, towards the end, the act by Gautam before the end curtain drops down was pretty well thought too. But more attention could have been taken in naming the two television channels. ‘Bhebei Ananda’ and ’12 Ghanta’ are so blatantly suggestive and with it the behaviors of the two reporters are so crudely presented that they seem to be a light-entertainment and pretty discordant with the total rhythm of the play. Light design plays a crucial role in such plays, but here Jayanta Das can create no significance out of it. Rather a light source has been disturbingly kept hanging right above the middle section of the stage which becomes useful only once. However, Gautam’s voice brings life to Shubhendu Maity’s songs.

The first section of the play builds up the expectation which the second one fails to live up to, thanks to the loss of subtlety in it. Therefore, in spite of the sincerest efforts by the writer and director, the play fails to take the audience towards a more engrossing understanding, unable to transcend the threshold of a mere comic entertainment. This is writer Rajat Mallick’s first work; we sincerely hope that he would be more careful towards his genius in his next works in future.


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- Rishav Dutta

Read this review in Bengali.

বাংলাতে পড়তে ক্লিক করুন।


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