Taray Taray : Theatre of deep emotional connect

Posted by Kaahon Desk On August 13, 2018

Kaushik Sen, also director, has adapted Srijato’s novel as Taray Taray for Swapnasandhani’s latest production. The narrative has Writtick (Riddhi Sen), a bright young man poised to achieve success in life with his corporate job and his beautiful wife, Sharmila (Surangana Bandyopadhyay). But when the beginning of the play shows Writtick seeking professional help of psychologist Dr. Ruksar (Reshmi Sen) for a host of mental issues, hallucinations predominating, we understand that he is fundamentally troubled. The narrative soon introduces artist Vincent van Gogh (Anjan Dutt)to revisit the history of his painting astonishing, timeless works of art despite remaining immersed in poverty, receiving almost universal disdain and suffering from mental illness. At one point of time it becomes clear that the seemingly parallel narratives of Writtick and van Gogh are actually intertwined. The points of connection are made evident – both are devastated by the grossness of life, both are in search of an alternative reality, both desperately wish to touch the simple yet ageless beauties of the world. Even as the distinct yet connected narratives of Writtick and van Gogh progress, blurring the boundaries between insanity and sanity, reality and imagination, past and present, another narrative emerges in the sub-plot, that has Dr. Ruksar becoming afflicted by her patient Writtick’s condition, leading her to slide away from the real world into the imagined.

Previous Kaahon Theatre Review:

As far as the play is concerned, Taray Taray is, in a nutshell, a show packed with lights, set, props, music and, of course, fascinating acting. The director has consciously attempted to present an audio-visually rich theatrical experience by using all elements of proscenium theatre at his disposal. The play could very easily have come across as gimmick-ridden. That it does not is because the use of an array of theatrical elements to create meaning is justified by this that the content of the drama, crammed full with, on the one hand, the narrative of an agonized painter producing many-hued masterpieces and, on the other, the exploration of a sensitive individual’s psyche who failed to become a painter. Many plays are seen to have one or many actors performing multiple roles without any textual sanction for it. But the trope of an actor playing multiple roles is textually motivated in Taray Taray, as the connectedness of the Writtick and van Gogh narratives is performed through Riddhi playing Theo van Gogh alongside Writtick or Kaushik Sen playing the roles of Writtick’s and van Gogh’s fathers, as well as that of the joiner.

A number of triangular metal frames with wheels have been used on stage, each with an arm longer than the rest, jutting out to suggest some weapon or the wish to reach the stars. Sometimes these become easels, sometimes canons seen in hallucination, sometimes Kolkata trams plodding noisily down tracks. It is tempting to consider these inanimate stage properties as alive as the actors, running in and out of the narrative strands, giving the play structural unity. The set by Sanchayan Ghosh and the lights by Sudip Sanyal are mature, sophisticated. A few months ago, Kolkata watched how Satyabrata Rout had created a colorful brightness in the van Gogh bio-dramaTumhara Vincent (Rangakalpa, Hyderabad), using a many-hued lighting scheme and props. The ploy had worked well for that production; Sudip and Sanchayan’s keen sense of theatre demands praise for having come up with a very different design for Taray Taray, given its mainly troubled, brooding mood. The guitar-heavy music Neel Dutt has created is a strength of the play. However, singing Don Mclean’s Starry Starry Night after the play has ended comes across as falling into the trap of the predictable and seems rather unnecessary as the play is not the story of Vincent’s van Gogh’s life; the song effectively damages the mood created by the play.

Taray Taray: Theatre of deep emotional connect

Anjan Dutt as van Gogh proves his indubitable acting prowess. The manner in which his eyes convey his character’s mental state and emotions throughout the play is educative. Throughout the play, he maintains unwavering control over his voice and his gestures. He projects his character’s emotionally charged utterances in a low (in terms of scale), contained manner, avoiding loudness;it never appears as if Anjan is appealing to the audience’s sentiments. Having watched the play twice, this reviewer is of the mind that Riddhi Sen’s decision to present a more toned down Writtick in the later performance as compared to the earlier one is quite in order. But still, there have been instances when Writtick’s agitation seemed over-performed; a reason for this might be that Writtick is mainly seen in the presence of two characters (Dr. Ruksar and Sharmila) that are comparatively restrained. Moreover, Riddhi might also have been concerned about trying to make Writtick and Theo different from each other. However, towards the close of the play, when van Gogh and Writtick encounter each other, Riddhi’s chemistry with Anjan is absolutely wonderful (the similar clothes the two wear in this scene is also significant). The ease with which Kaushik Sen performs and the credibility he brings to his characters are results of years of training, innate acting talent and the skill to erase acting out of acting. Though Reshmi Sen is generally competent, the journey of her character from doctor to patient remains mainly in her speeches, not so much in the language of her body. Surangana has done justice to her role, even though she had little scope to explore a spectrum of emotions and thoughts. Most of those performing choric roles come across as unprepared and immature; the sequence that demands their becoming art-lovers/dealers from being doctors is painfully blemished as a result of their slack movements coupled with superfluous gestures.

Theatre that deploys a battery of equipment and elements to create illusion and spectacle is under challenge today for a number of reasons. And yet, if properly handled, this mode of theatre can still meaningfully bond with the audience in terms of deep emotional appeal. This is what comes to our mind during a climactic moment of the play when Writtick rejects the real world to step into the star-filled night sky. The directorial design behind the making of this scene with a combination of music, lights, figure, shadow and props quite effortlessly earns our sincere admiration.

Dipankar Sen
A student of theatre as an art practice, he is definitely a slow (but hopefully, steady) learner. He is a father, a husband and a teacher of English literature in the West Bengal Education Service. His other interests include literature in translation and detective fiction.

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