Art News & Views

Theatre Review

Meghnad Badh Kabya, Direction & Score: Gautam Haldar.

There are theatres, and there are different theatres. 'Meghnad Badh Kabya' is a different theatre. This is a continuous process of redefinition. It is a process of self immolization a lot like the legendary phoenix bird, that is what Gautam Haldar one of the foremost contemporary theatre actors of the city has done. He has burnt himself down and recreated himself.

It is no joke to take up the great Nandikar and its driving force Rudraprasad Sengupta. The veteran of 'Football', 'Death of a Salesman', 'Oedipus Rex', 'Sesh Sakshatkar' and the rest, Sengupta has never been known to take to competition very kindly. Because, after all, he has always proved himself, being a person who has singlehandedly taken Bengal's group theatre movement to the international stage in recent times, rediscovered theatre's commitment to society (as opposed to films) by designing modules for theatre as a tool of learning in schools, as a tool of instruction and integration for peripheral groups like blinds and as a tool of instruction for society as a whole. In short, Sengupta's has been the one and only group to have given theatre a status by practice, as opposed to let's say that by tradition.

In recent times, Gautam Haldar had to come out after years at Nandikar, and being projected as its most promising face, after being subject to what his friends say, 'years of insult' simply because as a dedicated member of the group, he had the gumption of proposing and then going forward with as ambitious a project as translating Michael Madhusudan Dutta's 'Meghnad Badh Kabya'a landmark in Indian epicology, into the language of theatre.

Old timers at Nandikar still remember the opposition Gautam faced from Sengupta and his wife, Swatilekha (whose name incidentally was included in the credits of the original Nandikar production of the play). The two had denied to even see rehearsals, and were forced to concede at the last moment when poet and theatre enthusiast Sankha Ghosh appreciated the effort and was convinced of its potential on stage, after seeing one of the final rehearsals. Seeing sense, Sengupta and wife had jumped into the success bandwagon, and hence, the final credits described Swatilekha as the composer of the background score and Rudraprasad as the main motivator behind the production.

The production went on to complete more than 100 nights, and is still regarded as a landmark in contemporary Bengali stage.

So, when the true motiver, performer, or what have you, behind the production, Gautam Haldar, finally took a decision to break away from Nandikar, set up his own troupe, Naye Natua, and stage, as its first production, the same “Meghnad Badh Kabya', revised, and recreated, he was obviously taking Rudraprasad Sengupta, head-on.

And how?

Because, the new 'Meghnad' is stronger and bolder than the old. The same energy, the same retention and the same spunk that one saw 12 years back, was there. Added to it was a new Gautam Haldar free of shackles, free of obligations, managing a production of his dreams in a way where he has changed the established paradigmin stage, light, orientation, and more importantly in presentation.

Go watch this production. Even if you don't understand the language, it doesn't matter. Theatre makes you learn the language. Because it's more about the energy of a fighter retaining the dream, dedication and determination he had more than a decade back just like Meghnad, the son of Ravana himself, to defeat whom even the great Rama had to resort to deceit.




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