30 April 2016

The First day at the Theatre Exchange

Right from the build-up stages of the event, my enthusiasm and excitement for this project has not been a secret, sparkling everywhere through my posts, or my articles. And now that it is over, I feel hunted by the spirit of nostalgia, and the reminiscence of the suspense, the work load, and the deadlines! Most of my acquaintances and friends who were promised a nice time at the Theatre Exchange were not left disappointed and till this day, my whatsapp and facebook message inboxes are being flooded with Thank You notes and reminders to inform them about such events coming up in future!

Backstage chitchats : Mad About Drama

"I got a real taste of Kolkata and its grandeur in the thespian circuit" - was the remark of an acquaintance from Hyderabad, a to-be travel blogger who is on his roaming spree! To be very honest, this article (Read report) is more of a personal note rather than an event coverage, and I do not regret dropping down the doppelganger in the very beginning! If you weren't there for the show, you missed something you shouldn't have, plain and simple (Period)!

Day 1 :- 

The event commenced with a production titled "Au Revoir" from a very young bunch of school goers, The Third Mask. A story revolving around a group of friends dating back to high school to how their lives have changed after a couple of years, the unfinished love stories, the myriad number of people who once mattered the most they lose in the process of  "Growing up".  The narrative technique was noticeably weak, and despite the added technical glitches, it was a brave attempt on the part of the young lot. Criticising their attempt would be an immoral vandalising of the entire production. It was a realistic approach to catch the symphony of life, how people get tangled up in their quest to success, and forget the things that matter the most. Throwing light to the very beginning sequence, that conversation between a teacher and the apple of his eye, brings back our fondest memories in our childhood with that one special teacher we had always considered our mentor, I'm sure each one of us has that someone in our lives! Performed by Prithwi Banerjee, the student (whose performance was quite noteworthy) and Bedanta Mukherjee, the teacher, this sub-plot was quite intriguing and emotional to say the least. Shinjini Palit, who played the role of Maya Chanda, a troubled diva who is miserable and lonely even in the midst of numerous admirations, stood out among the rest. This talented lady's efforts were commendable and quite natural to say the least. Inexperienced yet definitely talented, it's quite an attempt to stage a production with two of the best troupes in the business and a few rectifications here and there, The Third Mask will indeed be a deserving competitor in the circuit.

The next show up on the charts was "With Love Calcutta" by Mad About Drama. For the thespians and the theatre enthusiasts in the city, this play is a well known household favourite, and that was clearly resonated through some of the audience members who had turned up for their second or third screening of the play. It was my first, and the kind of reviews that I had heard prior to the show made me all the more excited for the production, and trust me, all the appreciation fall short to describe the true mettle of the play! Written and directed by Aritra Sengupta and Ayanti Ghosh, this play is an episodic journey through the presentation of various strange vignettes which bring out the city's culture, people and its soul!

The Green and the Red, always at loggerheads with each other

Old Love during a riot

That "Basti" culture!

 It begins with a sentimental monologue from Neel, an amateur filmmaker filming a documentary on the city, played by Soham Majumdar, accompanied by Sayandeep Roy's Mandolin presentation. The live music featured throughout the play, made the production all the more enlivening, and the author of this article is still getting haunted by the various notes of the Mandolin performed throughout the acts!  For the Calcuttans out there watching the show it was a nostalgic journey through the strange tales and people who signify the spirit of this city, something that we Bengalis call " A peechutan"! Certain scenes stand out among the eight episodes, one of them being the coquettish tale of the bourgeoisie bengali snobs, portrayed by Sharmishtha Pandey and Sreeja Ghosh, with a stint from the simple yet bold Durgapur girl, performed by Adreeja Mandal! It's a smack to the faces of the Bengali ladies, who with their armada of Gucci, expensive bistros, imprudent fastidiousness bear a disregard for anything that doesn't speak English, and isn't another judgemental prick! There's no "preachy" interest or a rare tale being put up,  but an extremely common ludicrous facet from the Bengali community. Sreeja Ghosh's monologue at the end of the scene was one of the most stirring moments of the entire presentation, and she is arguably the best actor on the 27th night!

Adreeja, Sharmistha and Sreeja from the left

Another equally enthralling performance from her side was during the mother-daughter performance, a scene which depicts the everyday nuances in a Bengali household owing to the generation gap, Soumendra Bhattacharya's performance in this part as the naive, and irritating shrewd deserves special recognition! Throughout the entirety of the play, the lights and the video projections work extremely well in building up the background of the performance, and in my opinion, M.A.D's best till date (among the ones I've watched). It was specially engorging in the riot scene, performed once again by Sreeja Ghosh and Soumendra Bhattacharya, and during the mad-man Bishu's monologue! The other actor Soumya Mukherji, who played as much as six roles in this performance and got the audience enthralled in the other two most gripping vignettes of the play, most certainly won the hearts of the audience. His performance as Bishu, the eccentric, drunkard, and "suspicious" character was stellar, and the monologue was stirring with the absurdist elements resonating splendidly! His other performance, as a veteran thespian and the father to another thespian, played by Ayan Bhattacharji is nostalgic and praiseworthy. Amidst his baritone, his staunch rebukes at his son's style of acting, we find the resonating old spirit of the erstwhile Kolkata! Here we find the wails of a failed and wounded actor who is now chained to the merciless spirit of age and health! His heart aches for the desires he wishes to achieve, and the wrongs he couldn't undo, or the things he wishes he hadn't been involved in! After all, when the play ends, its the actor who is hurt, the character remains immortal and unharmed.

The Mad-Man, Bishu

Are you an amazing human being or an amazing actor?
The Father-son scene

The most melancholic and once again nostalgic (an emotion that has been associated to every portion of the play) scene of the play, is at the very end, and Soham Majumdar and Anisha Mandal do justice to that portion! Because after all when it comes to the "could-have-beens", Calcutta can be such a bitch...

Anisha Mandal and Soham Majumdar from the left

The reviews and the praises that I came across  do not entirely emote the feelings conveyed throughout this play. And my impression of the show, convinced me of the hype it carries! The first day of the National Theatre Exchange was a worthy beginning to the event of such magnitude and importance! Missed this one? Well, are you sure you would like to miss the next?

Article by :- Anubhav Chakraborty.
Photographs by :- Swagato Basak, 

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