April 23, 2012 (Calcutta Tube): Now Lalan Fakir (Fakir Lalan Shah) is celebrated throughout Bengal almost as a myth or superhuman. But he never ever projected himself as a myth of any kind. His pattern of singing (as is called Gayaki) was similar to those of Bauls of Bengal. Though there is no single sampraday (clan) called Bauls, who actually are rather a loose aggregate of different groups and subgroups from Hindu and Muslim communities who not having any of their sectarian lines. Moreover there are individuals also who do not fit into any particular group. In this context it is to be noted seriously that Lalan never signified himself as what is called Baul. But to the most researchers Lalan was indeed a Baul. The important reasons behind this nomenclature are that Lalan’s disciple Duddu Shah identified his group as Darbeshi Baul and that the Bauls consider Lalan to be their best poet and they use his songs in order to express their thought process. The popularization of the Baul songs of Lalan was first done by Harinath Majumdar, a friend of Lalan himself. Harinath, though an amateur Baul was a prolific composer of Baul songs. Propagation of Lalan was also done by Mukunda Das, who idealized the Bauls in his plays and wrote Baul-like patriotic songs. This propagation was also done by our great Poet Rabindranath Tagore. Though pro Lalan monks ( Lalan-panthi Fakirs) have had charges against Rabindranath Tagore who, they used to say, took Lalan’s original note book (asal khata) of his songs for good, from his institution (akhra) in Cheuriya, at present in Kushtia District, Bangladesh. They claimed that these note books helped Tagore to write Gitanjali, for which he received the Nobel Prize in 1913. In reality it is well known that, Rabindranath possessed two undated notebooks with a total of 285 songs of Lalan (Rabindra Bhavan MS 138 A 1 and 2). But it is said to had been written down by some Bamacharan Bhattacharya, a clerk at Tagore’s family estate in Shilaidah, only a few miles from Cheuriya, and which fell within the purview of the Tagore’s family estate . But followers of Lalan never agreed with this Bamacharan theory. Because it was next to impossible for Bamacharan like persons to have had those philosophical approach. Lalan died in the year 1898. And at the same time the fact is, long after his death he was brought to the lime light of the then middle class intelligentsia by Rabindranath who in a 1915-16 issue of Prabashi published eleven songs of Lalan. Anyway, this is not the place to drag the matter any further. But while setting aside this controversy another point is to be seriously noted, specially in context to the Theatre (Dacca) production Baramkhana. Lalan did not pass his mantle to any particular disciple, nor to disciples form any groups around him. Lalan or his direct disciples never wrote any hagiography that could project him as a superhuman being. Actually in Bangladesh, as stated in this play, Lalan is at the moment being projected and worshiped as a superhuman.
‘‘For knowledge and understanding Lalan is a never ending horizon. We could never ever have the courage to venture this enormous space if Sunil Gangopadhay’s Moner Manush would not have been with us. After going through the novel it appeared that life of Lalan itself is dramatic…. This novel inspired our friend Pantha Shahria to write a drama for the stage. Then we started our search for contemporary status of Lalan roaming about different institutions (akhra) dealing with Lalan. Conglomeration of the essence of the novel with our self earned experiences gave birth to the text named Baramkhana. ‘‘
This is the way Trapa Mazumder the young director of Theatre from Dacca,Bangladesh confesses their venture on Lalan Fakir. ‘‘ The secularism was the foundation of Lalan Shah. But at present in Bangladesh is not the unholy nexus of religion, politics and corporate system dragging out Lalan from his very foundation?’’ Trapa Mazumder raising this pertinent question has shaken us in this part of subcontinent also. Trapa also said that, Baramkhana is no documentation. It is a conglomeration of fact and fiction, she said. To Theatre of Dacca, Lalan is a symbol. They tried to depict how in Bangladesh everything is exploited for personal motive, political interest and corrupt market.
Undoubtedly as a group theatre Dacca’s Theatre has done something which is not only contemporary but also raises the problem created by this nasty nexus everywhere. This nasty nexus by dislocating the man or matter or institution from its very route jeopardizes and thus pollutes the real essence of all noble things. Baramkhana has boldly portrayed this menace. But, as Trapa has confessed, as a theatrical production Baramkhana is not up to the mark. The content is excellent, but the production does not keep pace with the reputation of an age old group Theatre headed by famous theatre personality Ramendu Mazumder. The salient negativity of this potential play resides in Baramkhana’s acting pattern which seems to be too much amateurish. But it is also to be noted that, including the singers altogether approximately fifty actors and actresses have participated in Baramkhana. Tackling and educating this large team is not a matter of joke. In context to man power it reminds us of Titash Ekti Nadir Nam and Kallol of Little Theatre Group directed by the great Utpal Dutta. It reminds us also some of the Nandikar’s contemporary plays like, Football (Directed by RudraPrasad Sengupta), Sojan Badiyar Ghat (Directed by Gautam Halder) and Madhabi (Directed by Swatilekha Sengupta). In this context Chetana’s production Tista Parer Britanta directed by Suman Mukherjii is note worthy. In these Kolkata productions extreme care was taken not only for the group acting but also for the individual acting as well.
In Baramkhana the stage craft is brilliant and highly professional. And so is the light projection. Thanks to Md. Saiful Islam for the stage and light. The dress is another important thing which has been tackled extremely well by Waihida Mullick Jolly. Undoubtedly the music is the heart of any production dealing with Lalan Shah. In Baramkhana music scored by Kartick is very good. The marshal art (lathi khela) is directed by Saidur Rahman Ripon. In a solitary episode we experienced this art when goons of landlord come to make Lalan and his disciples destitute. But the goons of landlord are ultimately defeated. It is now needless to mention that the then landlord of that plot of land was the Tagore family of Jorasanko, Kolkata.
To conclude we are ought to congratulate the young director Trapa Mazumder for this courageous venture with Lalan who has been placed in this play historically in the first half and in the second half of the play Lalan’s contemporary projection by Lalan-ignorent people has been very satirically shown. Thanks also to Trapa for her restrained acting as a commentator.
– Pachu Ray