Rabindranath Tagore’s plays on his 150th birth anniversary

Rabindranath TagoreSept 15 , 2011 (Calcutta Tube): An exploration into Rabindranath Tagore‘s plays staged by Bengali theatre directors on the 150th birth anniversary of the poet.

Rabindranath Tagore: In Search Of Or To Dilapidate the poet

In this discussion I shall mention only those works which I have the opportunity to watch during last 50 years of my life as a theatre-lover.
To commemorate Rabindranath`s one and half birth centennial, Bangla theatre is trying to do something in number of ways. In one, they are trying to follow Rabindranath with necessary editing and are not doing any idiosyncratic interpretation of the poet in a ’ go as you like` manner. Most notable among them is Tritiya Sutra`s ‘Visarjan`. Others are Kathakriti`s ‘Malancha`, Sohan`s ‘Manbhanjan`, Kalindi Natyo Srijon`s ‘Nishkriti`, ‘Achalayatan` by Natadha, Pancham Vaidik`s ‘Ghare Baire`, ` Char Adhyay` by Abhash etc. Idiosyncracy of modernizing /interpreting Rabindranath by some directors` poor cerebral capacity is another extreme way of commemorating Rabindranath`s one and half birth centennial.
[ReviewAZON asin=”1176712888″ display=”inlinepost”]‘Raktakarabi` by Purba Pashchim and Anya Desh, Total Theatre`s ‘Char Adhay`, Swapnasandhani`s ‘Birpurush`, ‘Muktadhara` by Ashok Nagar Natyomukh etc. are notable examples. In between there are another group of cerebral-directors who with compatible improvisation have done wonderful job with Rabindranath. `Dakghar` produced by Natadha is remarkable among them. In this list we may add Purba Pashchim`s `Chaturang`, `Achalayatan` by Shantipur Sanskritik, Pancham Vaidik`s ‘A-Parajita`,`Mrinal Eka` by Natadha , in Hindi `Streer Patra` by Sima Biswas (Bandit Queen famous),`Laboratory` by Lokkrishti etc. There is another stream of thought process which instigates protracted search on Rabindranath.
Nandikar`s `Amar Rabindranath` and Belghoria Ethik`s `Kothay Pabo Tare` are remarkable work in this line of thinking. With certain hesitation here we may include `Chhauer Nache Kanpe Pahar Chura`by Bandel Arohi also. In this context please note, it was simply a nightmare to watch `Sacrifice` in English produced by Workshop USA and directed by Dr. Fairly Richmond. I`m sure that the most amateurish work in West Bengal would have been better than this American performance at Rabindra Sadan. Since the canvas is very wide and eventually have limited space to cover, we ought to restrict ourselves on `Raktakarbi` to make clear our annoyance, on `Visarjan` to explain our exclamation and `Kothay Pabo Tare` with `Amar Rabindranath` to draw the conclusion.
`Raktakarabi` Produced By Bahurupi and ….
[ReviewAZON asin=”1466212853″ display=”inlinepost”]Bahurupi staged `Raktakarabi` in 1954 and thus Shambhu Mitra marveled the Indian theatre. Shambhu Mitra went deep into each and every line and between the lines of `Raktakarabi` and then again consulted with Shishir Bhaduri , Nandolal Basu and other the then eminent intellectuals before staging `Raktakarbi`. He did all these not because the drama itself was fragile but because it was extremely sensitive. Mohit Chattopadhay once said that, Rabindranath by writing `Raktakarabi`, has offered Indian theatre a hundred years` great leap forward. `Raktakarabi` was written sometimes in 1923.
Rabindranath visited USA in 1922-23 and this visit tolled a lot on the Poet. Raktakarabi might be a product of this tolling. But there was not a single direct signature in Raktakarabi from which the geography or the history or the then political economy of USA could be identified. As a printed volume Raktakarabi came up in 1926. It is said that, during this period, the poet twenty two times revised the script. All these are being mentioned here in nutshell, only to show how much Rabindranath was meticulous about Raktakarabi. And now let us see the present outrageous attempt to derelict this memorable meticulousness by immature people in the name of contemporizing Rabindranath.

It is to be mentioned that besides all other events the historical incidents at Jalianwalabag and Chourichoura happened before `Raktakarabi` was written. The religious trumpet was not uncommon at that time. Then why in `Raktakarabi` there was no police no military no fire arms and no religious trumpet? Rabindranath could have incorporated all or any of them if he would intend to do so. Nandini, Ranjan and the Raja- are supposed to be metaphor, the drama itself is considered as an allegory and above all it`s beyond any narrow boundary of time and space.
Now you see what happened in Purba Pashchhim`s production. The performance starts with the action of military force armed with modern artilleries and ends with two dead bodies one of Ranjan and another that of Nandini lying side by side on the rear. Beforehand the rally of `dhwajapuja` is accompanied with a huge trumpet, locally called `tasa party`. I`m not going in detail, just as morning shows the day the beginning and the end of the performance show not only the departure from but the utter dereliction of Rabindranath`s thought process. It is done either deliberately or due to sheer ignorance or to venture the market by doing something odd with the most viable commodity named Rabindranath!
Another `Raktakarabi` is staged by Anya Desh where by and large marginal people are the participants. The whole performance is minimized to a time span of less than an hour. And at the end one of the spokesperson of the group declared that they can perform it anywhere with short notice no matter whether it would be a corridor or rooftop or balcony or portico or even a small kitchen space! And they used three girls as Nandini with little similarities among themselves. It reminds us of another well known story. In 1977 Budhadeb Bhattacharya as cultural minister requested Shambhu Mitra to stage `Raktakarabi` once again under the sponsorship of WB Govt. Shambhu Mitra simply refused the offer as proper Nandini was not available because Tripti Mitra was much older at that time. But here in Anya Desh there are three Nandinis. And moreover this `Raktakarabi` is flanked with the people whose faces are covered with towels like that of `Kishenji`, the CPI(Maoist) leader. At the end, Raja, Nandini, Bishu and others were at the point of gun (the bamboo sticks are being raised as gun) by those covered performers, meaning that Kishenjis are the real state apparatus. What a ridiculous and perverted version of Rabindranath! I do not know the running motive behind this type of productions. Is it a simple matter of lubricating the then ruling party? Because after the change in the governance of West Bengal Anyo Desh`s ` Raktakarabi` has so far no performance at all.
Aparna versus Raghupati
[ReviewAZON asin=”8126906669″ display=”inlinepost”]Amidst this utter darkness came Tritiya Sutra`s Visarjan as a bright flame of lamp under the leadership of Suman Mukhopadhay. Accidentally or eventually I have had the opportunity to watch `Visarjan` directed by Shambhu Mitra, Utpal Dutta, Bibhas Chakraborty, Salil Bandopadhay and Habib Tanbir respectively. Without any hesitation I have to surrender before Gautam Haldar`s Raghupati, Kaushik Sen`s Jaising, Biplab Bandopadhay`s Govindamanikyo and Turna Das` Aparna and confess that these characterizations I have never seen before. With the technical support from Dipak Mukhopadhay(light), Sanchayan Ghosh (stage) and with challenging Debojyoti Mishra (music), the most promising theatre personality of our time Suman Mukhopadhay has startled our theatre with a true depiction of Rabindranath`s Visarjan.
Without so called contemporizing, we realize Rabindranath`s Visarjan in the context of present day violence. Verbally following Rabindranath, Suman made us understand that any extreme creed of any kind may lead to uncontrolled violence devoid of any logistic development. Thus, while after her pet goat was sacrificed by Raghupati before the idol of Goddess Kali, the production starts with the cry of Aprna – `give him- give him back to me` and after his foster-son Jaising, in order to satisfy the undaunted thirst of his foster- father for blood, sacrificed himself, the production ends with the cry of that particular Raghupati – `Give him Give him Give him! Give him back to me!` The blood thirsty robust Raghupati then is looking like befogged beggar almost crumbled in the downstage and on the upstage the poor Aprna appears as an all-enduring idol of all ages. And in between was lying lifeless body of contradiction-torn poor Jaising. Raghupati and Aparna at the end facing stabbing realization of the truth which possibly lay hidden from both of them specially from obsessed Raghupati himself.
On the Shakespearean model Rabindranath wrote the drama in 1890 when an undaunted race was being nurtured in the name of nationalism by every state power to propagate their own market. Poet apprehended that this race may lead to a violent destruction. Visarjan is the result of this apprehension.
He translated the drama which was published as `Sacrifice` in 1917, when the First World War was at its height. The Poet dedicated `Sacrifice` ` to those heroes who bravely stood for peace when human sacrifice was claimed for the Goddess of War`. So Suman`s editorial and directorial philosophy on Visarjan seems to be based on no `Goddess`, but on `almighty God` of political violence. We are living in an age when root of all types of violence is political and political only. From Calcutta killing of 1946 to Deganga massacre of 2010 all violence is directed by political party or political personal and in most cases by the ruling politics. In a brilliant subtle way this has come up in Tritiya Sutra`s `Visarjan` which again I`m bound to say, the best theatrical translation of Rabindranath`s ` Visarjan` in my experience.

In Search Of Rabindranath

Now to conclude we will go through the synopsis of Ethic Belghoria`s `Kothay Pabo Tare` Where we can have him) written and directed by Debashish Sengupta . Possibly this will have some relevance with our discussion which even can be summarized in this synopsis.

`Rabindranath is synonym of a protracted journey consisting of innumerable turns and crossroads. And at last the end point of the journey may be open or it may have multi terminal ending. As a theatre worker one can handle any of his texts religiously or updating the text -crumbling twisting- according to one`s motive. This way one can simply arrange worshipping or one can fragment his journey into pieces. With this, one may stop any further entry or exit but one can`t uproot those pieces to any one`s portico. With this line of thinking, members of a theatre group intended to observe the journey of this great philosopher in context of their endangered country. …
Their life thus gets entangled with their journey and in turn with the journey of that great personality… And in this process they got into Raktakarabi-Dakghar-Visarjan-Gharebaire-Conception of Cooperative-Humanity-Crisis of Civilization- Plundering of Natural Resources or getting inside his Musical Creations. Nandini-Ranjan-Amal-Govindamanikyo-Nikhilesh or in the lanes and by lanes of his multi terminal path way – they are searching with utter keenness –searching their life- their time….
The story of this journey is a journal.. an unfinished- open- may have multi terminal…..
We have tried to frame this journal in a theatre..`
Ethic has really in their production made a sincere journey to know and to excavate Rabindranath in order to exercise their ability to perform Rabindranath. Through a journey, which apparently may appear to be half hazard, they wanted to map and measure their capability of understanding Rabindranath. Without this mapping and measuring one`s ability, ventures on Rabindranath may lead to disastrous end game.

Nandikar To Conclude
And a script enriched with this humble spirit of understanding Rabindranath is presented by Nandikar under the direction of accomplished Swatilekha Sengupta who playing her violin and with her full throttled musical voice and outstanding recitation along with her wonder daughter Sohini Sengupta has marveled the Academy of fine arts` audience on 29th august 2011.This is the first performance of `Amar Rabindranath` by Nandikar. With the brilliant participation of 76years old ever young Rudra Prasad Sengupta, wonder actor Debshankar Halder and Parthapratim Deb, Nandikar startled the entire auditorium. And we can well agree with the acclamation by Saumitra Mitra the organizer of Purba Pashchim, stating, ` Amar Rabindranath` as `the best of all Bengali performances commemorating Rabindranath`s one and half birth centennial.`

– Pachu Ray

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