3 February 2016

Kafir : Fallen convictions

M.A.D's gore, dark and controversial re-enactment of Rabindranath Tagore's Bisarjan set in the modern age has been efficiently thought provoking to say the least. At 6:30 sharp "Kafir" kicked off to a voluptuous response from a well packed auditorium.

"Jaysingha ar morbe na"

Bisarjan, a part from the very popular "Rajarshi" told the story of a benevolent ruler of Tripura who denounced the sacrifice of bulls as an offering to the Goddess. Much like its inspiration, Kafir boasts of Tagore elements with a brilliant ensemble of Tarrantino and Brecht's features. "Where organized religion can be equally menacing as organized crime". Set in a sinister background, Tripura's deluded, whimsical Raja Gobindamanikya comes up with the decision to banish anyone who consorts and practises animal sacrifices. Don't jump into conclusions yet, the Fascist dictatorial leader is nothing like your fantasy King out of the fairytale. The decision is not taken very kindly by the imperceptive followers of the Devi, the priest turned "Mafia-Lord" Raghupati and his adopted son alias, right hand man, Jaysingha, end up in concocting a violent scheme to murder the monarch. Manipulating the king's bovine and meek brother, Nakshyatra Ray through religion and with the promises of Kingship, they succeed in turning him to their side in "cleansing" the "impure" condition of Tripura! What happens next, is for you to find out! The joker-duo whose farcical actions amuse the audience for a while, does little in providing any kind of solace from the gloomy atmosphere forecasted throughout the performance as it irks the crowd as a constant reminder of the gullible working class in our society! The only comfort you get from this gruesome satire is from the brilliantly enacted character of Aparna!

The addition of a virtual debate regarding the banishing of animal sacrifice on twitter adds to the appropriate humour elements of this play! What also stands out among the exceptional performances of team M.A.D is the background music consisting of Heavy metal very apt in adding to the obliterating-reasoning state of affairs! But the person who stands as the kingpin of the enactment, whose performance as the lethal controller Raghupati earned a heart-warming ovation from the crowd , Aritra Sengupta's direction and acting might have silently stimulated the youth of today to question the atrocities and fallacies rather than blindly following it! "Got to know a Rabindranath in a new way" were the words of a spectator! While plays like Kafir will always remain as a subject of dispute to the blind convictions, in a world where religion has been grieving humanity over and over again, the re-imagination has been successful in rendering the refashioning immediately needed in our camaraderie!

If religion is really the opium of the masses, this guy owns the show, Aritra Sengupta as Raghupati

ExPRESS Magazine Representatives had an exclusive chat with the founder of M.A.D (Mad About Drama), Soumya Mukherji :-

Where did you conceive the idea of creating a theatre group?

Soumendra, Soham and I were schoolmates and we used to perform in a lot of plays back then. So we expected a vibrant theater platform  after we joined college, but unfortunately it was not. And not just J.U, it was the same with I.E.M, PRESIDENCY and also St.Xaviers. There were people representing JU,PU or Xaviers in various competitions, but it was more or less restricted to that, the seriousness was lacking. I was friends with Aritra Senguta who was senior to us and we were aware of the cultural scenario in Delhi, the kind of sincerity they provided in their work. So somehow this passion for theater sparked off and the four of us formed our own group and slowly enthusiasts started pouring in from various colleges in Kolkata! 

Aritra Sengupta and Dibyadudh Das as Rudrapratap and Jaysingha respectively

Since your formation you've come a long way, what has been your most biggest achievement? Was it your most memorable one?

 Our biggest achievement was certainly making it to the theatre festival at the Prithvi Theaters in Mumbai in 2014! A professional group comprising of only youngsters last made it to Prithvi in 2008. In our year there were more than a hundred plays staged and it's a very competitive gathering, only 6 plays made it to Prithvi and I can proudly say that we were one of them! It was huge, we represented  Kolkata at the biggest stage in India and honestly, the feeling was extremely cherishable. But our MOST memorable achievement was 29th of December, 2015 at Gyan Manch, where we pulled off an event called #BYOD (BRING YOUR OWN DECEMBER)! We had decorated Gyan Manch to a carnival attire, something rarely seen in a Kolkata Theatre Festival! We had joined hands with few other theatre groups like DramaSutra, The Third Mask, Pandemonium and there was this very interesting Poetry session through the hands of Poetry Paradigm! Over 1200 people turned up for an event which was performed by people from various age groups like school students, college students and working people! Pulling off an event of that large a magnitude will always be very close to our hearts throughout! 

What are the principles on which M.A.D functions?

We at M.A.D believe in giving an experience for the audience! We don't just perform plays or sell them, it's about the overall impact that we want to provide! 

Talking about your recent performance at the very prestigious Prithvi Theatres this month, what kind of an audience does Mumbai provide? Is it in any way different from Kolkata's audience?

Mumbai's Prithvi Theatres crowd is a crowd which regularly goes for Performing Arts! Weekend days aren't just Multiplex days for them, this crowd is one which at times chooses a theatre over movies! The kind of plays performed is a bit different from the plays performed in Kolkata as they are more realistic! This huge chunk consists of regular theatre-goers and its a tough challenge to please them! Watching theatre is a passion out there, unlike Kolkata where the tradition of watching plays is slowly receding only to the elitists or the youngsters! 

Kolkata was previously called "the cultural capital of India", why has the scenario changed especially when it comes to Performing Arts? 

I'll share a story! While in my college days, I was in the middle of an English class when our professor suddenly walked in, slammed "The Merchant of Venice" on the table and questioned us, "Why do you think Shakespeare wrote plays?" In the midst of many ceremonious answers, in the most unscrupulous way he mentioned "He wrote it for money, plain and simple!" What people think these days  that a play should have a definite purpose, catering only to the intellectuals and not to the masses. Which is an utter sham! Plays can be very commercial and yet good too! This kind of an imposed mentality prevents the masses from flocking over to the theatres! The poor infrastructure  just adds to the problems! 

Soumya Mukherji, in 'With Love, Calcutta'

Talking about "Kafir", what significance does the comic get up bear? 

We didn't want to provide a face to the characters, to bring out the fact that there's ample Raghupatis and Jaysinghas amidst us. It can be anyone! 

Why did you include Tarantinesque features in your re-enactment of "Bisarjan" ? 

Dibyadudh Das pulled off a stellar performance as Jaysingha

We grew up fantasising Tarantino's movies and getting mesmerised by Tagore's literature! Both of them are rockstars! So when we decided on paying a tribute to the master-literary figure, we realised that Tarantino's elements are very integral to the play ! Therefore he comes in! 

According to you, which are the theater groups who have been doing a great job in contemporary Indian drama? 

Abhishek Majumdar's "Indian Ensemble" has been doing some very noteworthy work till now! Other than that Kaushik Sen's "Swapnoshandhani" has been performing exceptionally well for quite a long while now! 

Has the world of Cinema curbed the audience of theatre? 

Theatre has suffered the most since the world of Cinema has taken over! We can't ignore the obvious fact that it appeals to more people, is more easily available and has a larger diversity, but the world of Theatre will always have a dedicated audience! 

"KAFIR : Controversial, debatable yet revealing" said a spectator

 Ten years from now, where would you like to see yourself? 

Well, I don't plan that far honestly, I would just want us to peform this regularly! And also, ten years down the line I would desperately wish for a drastic improvement of the infrastructure of performing arts in Kolkata! Maybe higher ticket prices like in Broadway so that the dramatists can at least get their bread and butter from theatre and not resort to movies! 

Your message for the budding Dramatists! 

Watch plays, as many as you can! And also decide whether you are performing for passion or do you want it as your profession! If both, well you are on the right track! 

Team M.A.D


Event reported by :- Anubhav Chakraborty and Anushua Banerjee

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