Dec 15, 2010 (CalcuttaTube): Biplab Bandopadhyay’s directorial venture ‘Aandhare Ekela,’ the Bengali play adapted from Ariel Dorfman’s ‘Death and the Maiden’ by Debasish Sengupta, will be staged at the National School of Drama on January 10, 2011. Let’s hear from the actor-director his thoughts on the play.
The play has Debjani Chatterjee, Arijit Chowdhury, Gautam De and the director himself in the cast.
Read the interview exclusive at CalcuttaTube.
CalcuttaTube: Why did you choose ‘Aandhare Ekela’?
Biplab Bandopadhyay: Out of the few English plays that I’d read in their original language “Death and the Maiden” is one of them. I also watched its Bangladeshi dramatization, “Mukhosh” and liked it.
In the last few years, West Bengal saw drastic change in the ways of thinking both in social and political contexts. There was a change of stability that started with the Rizwanur case and continued to Singur and Nandigram. All these seemed to hint to the same fact there will always be a difference in perspective between the ruling government and its people.
Whenever a community or an individual is victimized, supporters to the cause also share the same fate. They in turn build up another community – this is the global rule of power dynamics.
When I read all these, it reminded me of the play. Though a government is so-called democratic, I very much liked to know what happens to an individual or a body that opposes the rule. Singur, Nandigram are examples of these. I’d heard of upheavals of 1962, 1967, 1972, 1975 but it were Singur and Nandigram and their objectivity that really warmed me to the idea of the play. A maiden is tortured and as time goes by she becomes even lonelier as people who help her only do that considering her state from their perspectives only. Thus the actual scar is never uprooted but gets only embalmed.
In this context, I talked to my friend Debasis Sengupta with the idea of the original play being adapted to mirror the present scenario. So he worked on the play and it turned out to be much more than my expectations. It depicts the middle class – their standing in society – with an in-depth analysis of their thoughts and ways of life. This is the picture of West Bengal, this is a picture of those for whom I feel but can’t do anything. I am limiting my focus to the middle class only and when I say this I mean both their financial standing and their lifestyle. So from this point of view, the play appealed to me. For people like me, who remains politically neutral – we too have something to say!
In a democracy you need to have parties and the process controls the power balance. A tortured victim and the torturer actually cannot represent a party. If power or position is taken advantage of, then a person becomes abusive and violates the laws of life. These individuals always seek their shelter behind some powerful body.
CalcuttaTube: What is the genre of this play?
Biplab Bandopadhyay: It is difficult to say. If you have to categorize every creation, then somewhere it hinders the creation itself. It is better if people analyze as per their perceptions. Strangely, this issue comes up only for performing arts, theatre. You won’t see this happen for poetry or painting.
I think this should be an open forum. We have shown three truths, the fourth truth is the play and you have to imagine the fifth truth. We have ended the play according to our imaginations. You see, if you try to capture it in specific phrases, then somewhere you humiliate the art.
CalcuttaTube: What will be your rating for ‘Aandhare Ekela’ as an audience?
Biplab Bandopadhyay: 50 to 60 percent.
CalcuttaTube: Is there any particular portions that you would like to do differently?
Biplab Bandopadhyay: Yes. I think I could have done the entire play differently and I feel that every day.
CalcuttaTube: Are they different from each other?
Biplab Bandopadhyay: Not different probably, but extensions. Some phrases or scenes could be said differently or be made more communicating and artistic. Now which one is better is a matter of debate, but the process of thinking always goes on.
Unlike other mediums, theatre offers an endless possibility of alterations. There is the freedom to change the entire structure of a play even after it is staged. That is the greatness of this medium.
CalcuttaTube: How different was it when you staged the play than from where you started?
Biplab Bandopadhyay: In the preliminary stage, I just had an idea about the structure of the play and that I was going to use videography, though I did not know how and when.
The play is very rich, but it is quite hard at the same time. The drama bears a rich signature of the playwright, but it was difficult for commoners like me. So, I wanted to make it more meaningful, easy, and communicating for common people.
I made a few changes here and there. I introduced the ending song; it wasn’t in the main play. Whatever we see after the gunshot followed by the blackout on the stage – were edited by me. It was my concept regarding the stage.
CalcuttaTube: What views did your actors share about this play?
Biplab Bandopadhyay: We all shared the same centrality of feelings, though everyone’s personal opinions may have been different.
Both ‘Death and the Maiden’ and ‘Aandhare Ekela’ deal with the crisis of an individual and we all agreed on that. To curb one hardship, a ruling party may start another procedure, but victims of those brutalities cannot get rid of their scars even if they are compensated. Someone who has experienced some sort of brutality with their organs cannot leave it behind.
How far and how sufficiently can state protect an individual, to what extent can it safeguard someone in his/her crisis- is the gist of the play.
CalcuttaTube: How do you feel about ‘Aandhre Ekela’ going to NSD?
Biplab Bandopadhyay: I have previously been to the National School of Drama before as an actor. This is the first time I am going to NSD as a director. It feels good to reach out to more audiences.
CalcuttaTube: What next?
Biplab Bandopadhyay: Thinking about quite a few things. It may be Romeo Juliet, though I am not sure yet. Right now I am too busy with my professional work.