July 7, 2011 (Calcutta Tube): Peeking into the stark reality of diplomacy, the Bengali play ‘Laal Sabuj’ by actor-director Chandan Sen uses comedy to preach the philosophy of democracy. Read Calcutta Tube’s review of the play.
Chandan Sen’s political satire, ‘Laal Sabuj’ mocks the politics that promotes autocracy rather than democracy and premieres at the most appropriate time when Bengal witnesses history in the making in the political arena.
As the common man writhes under a dictatorial rule and is inundated by false promises made by ruler and the oppositions alike, he becomes politically blinded by their propaganda. He feels politics in every facet of life and feels the breath of the opportunist diplomats in every aspect of his social existence. He is forced to adhere to either of the party colours that dominate their regions. Thus he becomes a slave to the party faith and entirely loses his right to democracy. But one day the free man in him wakes inside and he openly defies the oppressors and tries to seek justice in the court of law.
This is more or less the story of Swadhin Das, a name aptly chosen (Swadhin – Bengali for freedom and Das – Bengali for slave), of Chanddoba, who complains of a curious ailment of his eyes for which he accuses the corrupt politicians to be responsible. He claims that his sickly eyes can only see the world in red and green – the symbolic colour of the ruling party and the opposition. Due to the extreme propaganda for the party’s cause rather than the cause of the state, the cadres had made their life miserable and also have clouded their views of democracy. He is frustrated as he notices the party attempting to regulate their thoughts and actions and he loses peace of mind. Utter confusion engulfs his soul and he is castrated from the beauty of nature as he succumbs to temporary colour blindness. As he seeks justice in the court of law the public prosecutor hesitantly takes up the case while the defense counsel is lured into action by the united effort of the ruler and the opposition. The judge himself becomes confused as to the verdict of the case and finally it is upto the crooked police officer who beats up the petitioner and drives him off to his village.
But the disease seemed contagious and a vast population of Chanddoba seems to get infected by this peculiar form of visual impairment. As the disease spreads to town the government gets concerned. The inner self of each and every person – be it reddish or greenish or the more hypocritical red inside green or the other way round becomes public. The government sets up a new department and directs every person to wear blue goggles so as to mask the deceptive political views that many possess.
Despair grips the masses and suspicion reigns supreme.
In the midst of all these chaos a scholar of Chanddoba starts to educate the villagers about the true concept of democracy. People learn to discriminate between the vice and the virtue. The freedom of choice is restored and hope for a better future is again established as his teachings soon spread throughout the country.
Jyotishman Chattopadhyay’s play dramatized by Chandan Sen doesn’t try to find whether politics is a necessity rather it weaves its concepts on the already established socio-political structure of the world and emphasizes on healthy politics for a better future. Its theme stresses that political manifesto may vary between different parties but each must respect the other’s beliefs and the establishment of a truly egalitarian society must allow conflict of ideals but should renounce dictatorship. A thoughtfully directed performance with comic sequences abound, the underline philosophy has been gracefully conveyed to the audience. The concept of political colours has been accentuated by the clever use of light (Joy Sen and Kalyan Ghosh) and the importance of stage illumination seems never been better realized. The set (designed by Chandan Sen, constructed by Madan–Tinku and decorated by Jeeshu) is also a flurry of colours but the composed way in which it is designed aptly balances the lighting and correctly tones up each act.
Shantilal Mukherjee plays the part of the public prosecutor and comes up with yet another class act as no words suffice for his astounding performance. Portraying the corrupt lawyer with a tendency to gobble up the barest minimum from the client, his character radiates a strange geniality that will at once draw adoration and abhorrence from the audience. Chandan Sen too enhances the comedy by his animated characterization of the fidgety judge with an avid interest in Tagore and his works though he often quotes the most incorrect verses and his citations contain more factual errors than one can imagine possible from a self-proclaimed affectionate follower of Rabindranath. Sen and Mukherjee strikes off a memorable act in the courtroom episode when the petitioner is first brought for hearing. In the supporting cast, Panchanan Bannerjee as the defense counsel Osman Goni deserves mention as he depicts the degraded of the lawyers who doesn’t fear disgrace if a minimum compensation is guaranteed. Another notable perspective is the use of a chorus of actors (Rajat, Tapas, Aritra, Sagar, Nandadulal, Rajkumar) who bridge the acts together and helps in the cohesive presentation of the narrative through their singing and recitation. Lopamudra Mitra’s background scores enrich the performance and add a new flavor to the entertainment which offers a welcome relief during this monsoon season in the city.
– Anirban De