|Team "News Sense" from "Hum Aur Godot"|
"The tears of the world are a constant quality. For each one who begins to weep, somewhere else another stops. The same is true of the laugh" - Samuel Beckett.
Many have termed that my love story with The Theatre of the absurd has been a tad bit better than the one associated between a handsome vampire and a confused belle (Read, Twilight)! Ofcourse a drastic exaggeration, but then being a literature student my love for "this absolute question against existentialism" has barely known any limits! So when I heard that a group of people of my own age are trying to stage Beckett's classic, "Waiting for Godot", I was excited, sceptic and all the more, interested in the project in a large scale! Albeit, a misinterpretation, since the play was certainly not "a re-imagination" but an inspiration which turned into one perplexing and humorous juxtaposition which questions the eternal clashes! A ludicrous representation with its casual treatment in the initial stages, suddenly turning over with a jolt and taking us to the realms of an absurdist Theatre's bedrock, irritationality! Waiting for an "imaginary" figure, Bhaggu, two cultures come into a close round of clashes, friendship and an eternal wait for this Bhaggu to turn up and help them out in their respective hunt for glory!
|The Marwari-Bengali representation of|
"Vladimir & Estragon"
Nilkantha Bagchi, played by Somudranil Sarkar, is an ideal Calceshian (Read, Kolkatan) pseudo-intellectual, a self-proclaimed poet with his perfect get up of a Kurta and a baggy jeans with a "Shantiniketani" side-bag! He is a racist, yet peace loving, he is egoistic yet falls on the knees when it comes to food, and his partner is another stereotyped Marwari with his business deals, bloated ego, a blatant disregard for sophistication and everything "Bhujiya"! The splendid portrayal of the collision between these two cultures, is turned over in the blink of an eye into something inexplicable, complex, and a sinister approach of irritationality! It was one such play, which forms the best of youth theatre, playing with the most difficult of human literature and imagination!
ExPRESS MAGAZINE reporters had a wonderful opportunity of interacting with "The New Sense" crew.
|Raunaq Anand as "Lucky"|
How did the theatrical group ‘The Newsense’ come into existence?
Basically we have four 4 founding members, Raunaq Anand, Somudranil Sarkar , Arnab Deb and Imon . We were a part of another theatrical group and after quitting that we thought of forming one of our own. We started getting responses, and people from St. Xavier's college, Hermaba Chandra college started flooding in and this is how we had the entire team compiled, more or less it’s a cross-college team.
How do you strike a balance between your educational career (since one is a B.com student while another is pursuing C.A), other priorities and theatre?
Somudranil Sarkar (One of the founders and actors) :- “I have been doing theatre since the age of six and I became a part of Nandikar where I fulfilled my ‘hatey khori’ of acting under Rudraprasad Sengupta, Sohini Sengupta, Goutam Haldar , Debshankar Haldar . After coming out of the professional group I attended workshops of Koushik Sen , Paran Bandopadhyay, Chandan Sen , Shantilal Mukherjee etc . Besides I had also attended the foreign workshops of France, Russia etc. So after all these studies never really stood as an impediment for me, also because of the immense support I gained from my family. I often witnessed children forced upon with the burden of theatre while their interests laid somewhere else. Presently in my group itself there are people who carry on with their love for theatre without informing their parents as they won’t be supported”-.
Yash Choudhury (One of the actors) :- “I come from a Marwari family and the belief they hold is, theatre is for the inferior class and is looked down upon. So I have to basically lie to them that I act in a drama club and give excuses of tuitions and manage to come for the rehearsals.”
|Meet Yash Choudhury|
We all have an inspiration that brings us closer to what we admire. Who brought you closer to the world of theatre?
Sidra Hossein (One of the actors) :- “Honestly I have grown up simply watching Hindi serials and I would at times act upon few lines and expressions and that is how I learnt the a,b,c,d of acting."
Yash Choudhury - “I have always been a part of my school’s drama club and I am very well polished at mimicry. So after coming to know about the auditions of this group in college, I thought of it as an audition for a drama group like others. Eventually after being selected I came across the world of the theatre which constitute of so many small and big groups, prior to that I had no idea what is theatre or what is it like! Hence I professionally began doing theatre.” –
Shedding light on your last play, “Hum aur Godot”, what is your personal interpretation of Beckett’s classic?
To quote Albert Camus, we would say, ‘We get into the habit of living before acquiring the habit of thinking’. We wanted to live certain moments in this meaningless play (to others), where the cultural practice is superficially parodied endlessly by the so called typical utilitarian bourgeoisie intellectualism. So this is it, we are not doing theatre for the sake of just doing it; we do it because we want to.
|Somudranil Sarkar and Sidra Hussain|
What do you think of the youth theatre scenario of the city?
We face this a number of times. The generalised concept that the audience has about a youth theatrical group is like, ‘What do you understand about theatre unlike famous theatricians?” So we are already being marginalised and compared baselessly, just as we state that Utpal Dutt was also actively a part of theatre in his college days so are we, so why that margin? It’s just that back then, the term ‘youth theatre’ didn’t create much hype. Also a major reason to think so is, nowadays every now and then there’s some theatre group cropping up which fail to make it through the long run. They have a very bad example set in their minds that (for example); Debshankar Haldar who is presently a cinema artist, had his roots from theatre, so they live on the thought that theatre will earn them roles in cinema! No, there’s a fine demarcation between these two. It’s a sorry state that they fail to be persistent here, they enter the circuit with already a pre-occupied image of glorification. It’s always a good state to have more people indulging themselves in the art line, but they have casted an impression of youth theatre being too much temporary.
But nevertheless, there’s been a revival of youth theatre through the improvised plays of Mad About Drama (M.A.D), Hypokrites etc, attracting a major young crowd. The graph has leaped a rise up. So from that angle if we think of ourselves to be some kind of an artist, we feel a bit proud (giggles).
Don’t you think there has been a receding interest with the upcoming generations, branding theatre as a mode of ‘intellectual upliftment’, what are your views on that?
|ExPRESS MAGAZINE representatives in a conversation|
with "The New Sense"
So don’t you think theatre can be a good source of entertainment?
No I would be wrong saying that. But a play cannot be completely based on entertainment, then it loses the major depth and meaning of staging the play, it becomes very light. There’s no meaning in staging a play revolving around an undecorated subject, and then making it humorous through one liners and plain mimicking. So if you say so, then to bring forth ‘Hum aur Godot’, we had to draw a line between commercial fun and the text of Samuel Beckett.
Since the fictional character of Godot was replaced with the name Bhaggu, in your play, so why was the play named ‘Hum aur Godot’ and why not ‘Hum aur Bhaggu’?
There lie two major reasons behind the name. One was, we wanted to keep the name ‘Godot’ intact, so that it would be much easier for the audience to connect to the name of the play. Another reason being, we wanted them to come and know that there’s a twist in the plot, it’s not Godot but Bhaggu. Many people have misinterpreted our play as ‘an adaptation from Waiting for Godot’, but we want to correct them, it’s not an adaptation, but ‘an inspiration from the text’. Yes, it lies parallel to the text, so ‘Hum aur Godot’.
There was this humorous Marwari-Bengali tiff in the play, so how did you come out with this idea?
|The Marwari-Bengali clash at "Hum Aur Godot"|
Somudranil Sarkar - “I want to quote and quote one line from the play where the Bengali man is telling the Marwari person, ‘You’ll only eat bhujiya and swell your belly and butt.’ Let me also share a personal experience of mine. One day while returning in a metro from Shyambazar, I saw this group of Marwari just discussing about bhujia for a long a stretch of 30 minutes, I was dumbstruck to see how people can just talk about some mere bhujiya in such different ways! “
If you look around it’s a daily story everywhere, an on-going clash between the two different mentalities. So basically we wanted to have fun through the portrayal of these little diurnal nuances. The stereotypical Bengali, only concerned about intellectualism and communism, while the other only revolving around bhujiya. But the irony lies in the fact, that both of them are their only constant company having nowhere to go like that of Estragon and Vladimir. So keeping the structure of the characters intact, we portrayed two contradictory characters, and nothing would have matched better than a Marwari and Bengali contradiction.
Somudranil, where did you get the inspiration to play the role of the Bengali poet, Nilkantha Bagchi?
|Somudranil Sarkar in the middle|
Firstly, it was more of a persuasion than an inspiration! (Laughs). Back to the days of childhood when I would often visit Nandan to watch theatres, just outside the Academy, I would see a so called ‘intellectual’ crowd comprising of both young and old generations, sharing bits and pieces of moral lectures. Majority would dress themselves up in punjabi, baggy jeans, a lose bag slinging from the shoulder and a cigarette (must) in their hands. Few would go on uttering the needs to understand communism in order to understand everything around, while someone would promptly comment that Rabindranath Tagore wasn’t a reactionary. This would continue when someone would counterfeit that one needs to understand the in depth notion of Ritwik Ghatak’s movie in order to understand cinema. These bits and pieces of observations motivated me to create this one character of a perfect Bengali.
How and why does the theatre of absurd appeal to you?
Firstly because it hasn’t been in practice for a long period of time. There’s always been drawing room comedy and political plotted plays and very few attempted theatre of absurd have been performed, yet they failed to cast an impact on the audience. What keeps us striking is, we all are living through absurd situations all the times. To draw examples, Hok Kolorob movement of Jadavpur University had immense influence on the concept of the play. Also the present scenario of seeking justice for Rohit Vemula. It had all started with a different motive while ended up resulting to a different one. So this is it, to wait continuously for something and the failure to achieve that wait, to get lost in the nothingness of the situation catapulted the play for us. Also being an actor, there should always be openings for interpretation in your acting, so from that point of view as well, the theatre of absurd is appealing. The bed rock of absurd theatre is that existential question, that needs to be presented in a startling way.
Lucky’s speech has played a pivotal part of Beckett’s magnum opus, Raunaq where did your re-imagination stem from?
|Meet Raunaq Anand's Lucky|
I didn’t want the clichéd portrayal of Lucky, like in most of other productions. I basically wanted to show the master-servant relationship in the light of contemporary times. Hence I had to create a unique interpretation of Lucky, because honestly we don’t have that kind of a master-servant relationship prevailing till date, so I thought of getting in the ring master and clown relationship. With a clown we all can connect the emotions, a clown is someone who is always adhering to the rules and commands of his master, putting on a fake smile for the sake of others and then again resorting back to the mundane life. So what I believe is, none could have portrayed the emotions of Lucky, better than a clown.
What is the group’s dream project and where does it wish to see itself few years from now?
If we talk about a dream project, then we wouldn’t incline much towards an adaptation anymore, but something that will come out as an original piece. We don’t know really, we are still waiting for some kind of a ‘dream project’ to come up (giggles). Well still we have few, like we want to stage ‘William Shakespeare’s Coriolanus’ in the modern context, then there’s ‘Utpal Dutt’s Barricade ‘. Another is we want to perform ‘Waiting for Godot’ in the original manner. That’s another reason why we kept Lucky’s part original in the play.
Other than Samuel Beckett, who are the great absurdist theatricians favourite to you?
Other than Beckett, it’s quite hard to pick up one as a favourite among the lot. It’s really difficult to choose one like that, in fact if also asked the question to name a favourite actor; still it becomes tough for us to choose a ‘favourite’ as such.
“Tragedy enthrals me a lot, because I have been part of Shakespeare’s Othello, then Hrid Majharey by Nandikar,though they are not really tragedy. I have worked on and studied about various tragedies of Shakespeare, so yes this is why another would theatre of tragedy.” – Somudranil Sarkar.
Share some of the most memorable moments of your journey till date.
Somudranil Sarkar - "To have a packed audience, cheering and bursting into fits of laughter during the play, only comes as huge boost up. Also to mention, the appreciation we get from each other also becomes a part of it.
“From my individual journey, I will share an overwhelming joy that surpasses all. That happened after I acted in ‘Indian Idol’ directed by Debshankar Haldar. While I walked up on the stage, I stood with my head bowed down in front of Rudraprasad Sengupta, to which he told in a sonorous voice ‘Why are you standing with your head bent down? You’re never wrong; you were born on the stage’. Well I don’t think something has ever come to me greater than that, that line still bangs fresh in my ears."
Reeshav Dey - “Whatever I act, I always get a very positive outcome from my team members, so all the times, those come as major encouragements.”
Yash Choudhury - “Since I am very new to this, when I walk up to the stage and I am successful at making the audience laugh their hearts out, it creates a memory for me”.
Raina Dasgupta - “When my friends came to this play, they accepted gladly that they have seen something very new besides the regulars. The theatre of absurd was absent for a long time, when we again kind of revived it back. So that came as an overwhelming appreciation for me.”
A special question to Sidra and Yash, since your family is against this, so how would you bring your family to appreciate it?
Yash Choudhury - “I come from a very conservative family, and as I said previously they won’t like me to act. Still if I also try and get them for my plays, there are certain usages of abusive words which really won’t have a good impression on them. So yes, I dream of that one day when they will come and feel proud of me doing theatre”.
|Somudranil Sarkar, Sidra Hossein, Yash Choudhury|
from the left
Sidra Hossein - “I come from a Muslim background where theatre isn’t viewed in a good eye. I have to be first good in studies to make my parents proud. Also if I bring them ever for my show, they’ll want me to play the role of a doctor or teacher etc, not even a house wife or a girlfriend! Ironically I played the role of a prostitute instead in my first play. So the proudest moment would be, when I will see my parents standing up and clapping for me in the audience, no matter what role I play.”
What is your message for the young theatre enthusiasts who are planning to have a group of their own?
To have a group, the first requirement is seriousness. No matter what, the members need to emotionally, financially, physically coonected whenever a dearth crops up. There has to be a major amount of unity and independence. The team has to be persistent and patience as well.
How did you decide on the name ‘The New Sense’?
(Laughs) There’s a catch in it! It sounds similar to ‘Nuisance’, so the first impression is The Nuisance, then looking closer to it, it is The New Sense. Many people have the idea that we are just a bunch of nuisance in this circuit, but then eventually no we are ‘The New Sense’.
|Team ExPRESS WITH Team New Sense|
Where and when will we see this talented bunch next?
We are planning to proceed with few street plays. Our next play would be staged in Sanskriti, at the end of this month. We are also planning to have few in Presidency University. After all these we’ll be back with a bigger production in August, which will be the best time to avoid examination hurdles.
COVERAGE BY :- Anubhav Chakraborty, Shreya Basak, and Swagato Basak.