It was just next day to the calendar marked “Children’s day”. The winter wind had just started its journey from the Ganges to reach the assembled theater lovers with kids in front of the ticket counter. The dusk spread its charming light over the celebratory festive mood enjoyed by the cine lovers of the city. It is the time when shadows creep out of the crevices of every opaque living creatures. The time was certainly to see a performance by “Jhalapala” titled “Shadow”. The introductory comment on the ticket mentioned the play was essentially for children. The auditorium was thus full of first time Academy of Fine arts visitors and most importantly many children. This is the first achievement that Jhalapala could win to have lured new audiences to theater and children’s attention from cartoon channels to invest some attention to theater.
“Shadow” is a non-verbal communicative play where the actors themselves are the mise-en-scene where they use various body movements and postures to change the space-time relationship. The form of body acting is though “Mime” yet mime here is not used or referred as a discourse. When the diegetic verbal dialogue is removed from any action during communication, the residual actions and expressions are used by the actors in this play to connect with the audiences. The story revolves around a timid young man, who is always a prey to his neighbour’s anguish, frustrations, corruptions, until he unearths a friendship with his own shadow. A crude mundane reality lifts itself to a fantasy where positivity changes the life of the protagonist.
Despite of having a major performing art practices in Bengal, it is really difficult to find strong performers here who can execute their perceived imaginations. The actors of the play deserve series of applauses as they could create various poignant moments on stage. They through only their actions and being contortionists could persuade water flogged city road, gym, mess, office anything. Just a sound reference and their actions could recreate space on stage, objects and also characters! The actors seemed to be like magicians to give birth to life and situations through their body with the help of sound! It is also the director who could draft the master design of the narration and could cajole his actors to imbibe the design.
The play is the epitome of a mature performance and a true entertainment but probably not for children. The kids had come to the hall with a punctilious mood but it is really difficult for them to hold on to it for an hour with “Shadow”. They were entertained with the shtick form of comedy that the actors used. The slapstick form used in the play also made them laugh a lot but that’s momentary in longer frequencies. The narrative was a bit tough syllabus for them. A child coming from the world of “Chhota Bheem”, “Golu Molu” and Sinchen, is off course not accustomed with a Government office which has a long bladed heavy fan that makes disastrous sound, with which the play starts. The kid cannot imagine a city, where type writers are used in an office and which has typical working men’s mess. The world of Ghonada or Tenida is no more existent with even an adolescent. The whole concept of discovering self while developing a strong liaison with one’s shadow can drag psychoanalysis, but cannot drive a child’s imagination unless tools of fantasies were used which were gravely missing in the play. The form is also very non-Indian and so apart from the comedy; the children tackled the play with stoicism.
There is a child in every adult who refuses to grow. Shantanil Ganguly and the entire crew of Shadow may hear “Gracias” from those children caged in adult bodies who have their own shadow to be their sole friend.