March 22, 2013 (Calcutta Tube): Premiering on Valentine’s Day, that incidentally fell one day before Saraswati Puja – the traditional Bengali equivalent of the day of romance, Ballygunge Swapnasuchana presented Belashesher Kolahol – a romantic comedy and a privilege for the audience who witnessed for the first time as Swatilekha Sengupta acted in the play that was directed by none other than her daughter Sohini Sengupta.
Written by Kajal Chakraborty, the play highlights the eternal search of romantic fulfillment that each couple yearns for since the day they tie the nuptial bond but which seems always to be out of reach. The responsibility of raising a family, looking after near ones, social calls of every kind and above all the various domestic trivialities – each of these seem to overshadow the development of romance that is the guiding basis of a healthy family.
The story opens days after the aged Yajneshwar shocks his wife, Hemalata by filing a lawsuit against her on the grounds of breach of agreement. Quite naturally feeling insulted after years of toil spent not only to raise their family but also to tend to a host of dependants, the apalled Hemalata counters with a complaint of defamation. As the aged duo fights in the court of law, friends, well wishers and the next generation of son, daughter and their families rush in to help. But even their most sincere efforts fails and they are left wondering at what may be the root of the problem.
Is it a matter of shifted affection? Is there a third person in the midst of the happy couple? Or is it something more sinister? As the daughter and son-in-law approaches Yajneshwar, he cold-shoulders them while Hemalata being overwhelmed by the shock and truly at a loss, fails to convey a clear meaning of the conflict to her son and daughter-in-law.
But the problem seems not so ordinary in the least! It is finally revealed that Yajneswhar’s dream of a supreme married life, unscathed by the domestic complexities or the obligations to the society but filled with the Utopian urge of the youthful lover that resides in every romantic heart, alas, had never been met with by the more practical minded Hemalata.
The aged Yajneshwar tearfully ruminates about the days of yore that saw his youthful self trying hard to express his passion to a practical Hemalata who often failed to grasp its essence. On the contrary, Yajneshwar,in his part, had never tried to understand the effort of his sensible wife to turn down his public and impulsive display of emotion and so felt rather isolated.
As both realized the miscued opportunities of love and affection spoiled by social barriers and swapped by misunderstandings and misinterpretations, it dawns upon them – and to the audience too – that all may be not lost yet. Though age takes a toll on health and the body becomes frail but if the mind remains still young it promises a greener and a gratifying life with the spouse. True that many of our wishes remain unfulfilled as we step into adulthood, but each of these acts as the life force giving us renewed hope and a truer meaning to existence that the depressed heart often feels. Nurtured for ages in the bosom of the romantic souls, the passions that remain inevitably incomplete may not be the curse that it appears to be, but rather a necessity that gives a novel meaning to love and life.
This superbly orchestrated production, directed by Sohini Sengupta, could not have been more ably performed than by the veteran duo of Biswajit Chakraborty (Yajneshwar) and Swatilekha Sengupta (Hemalata). The impulsive Yajneshwar wailing in desperation in the court on one hand and then childishly sobbing at the convenient retreat of his home in front of his wife on the other may be etched in the mind of the audience just for the natural yet superb acting of Biswajit Chakraborty. Balancing the performance in no less magnitude was Swatilekha as the conservative and reverential Bengali lady who can bear all but not the humiliation from the person she loves and cares for most. The inconsolable Hemalata as she bears the greatest insult from her husband mixed with the despair of the uncertain future that finally finds way as she laments in front of her son could not have been more realistically sketched than what was depicted by Swatilekha Sengupta. But another point in the duo’s acting was the timing that is so essential for the underlying comedy. Speaking of comedy, the contribution of another person must be mentioned in the same breath. Rudratej Sengupta as Sitanghsu, the son-in-law, plays a pivotal role in bringing humour to the fore. His depiction of the simple, lovable, naïve, easy going Sitangshu with a single track mind filled with fantastic ideas yet social to the extreme provides a whole new dimension to the comedy. His encounter with the father-in-law as he mistakenly smells an illegitimate affair and his coaxing of his elder to divulge the secret is one of the instances that will be remembered for a long time. The rest of the cast also plays their part well as does the off-stage staff with a aptly designed lighting arrangement and a suitable make up. Bijoy Mukhopadhyay’s endeavour after Kanyadan thus can be stated as no way less an audience puller and remains to be seen whether it outshines its predecessor or not.
– Anirban De