The Resistible Rise of Miss Chief

Bhaskar Dasgupta

In their latest production of ‘Ashoknagar Natya Anan’, actor-play-wright Chandan Sen takes the essence of Bertolt Brecht's The resistible rise of Arturo Ui but is more inclined towards the dramatist's political insight. Hence here in Kolkata poor Brecht after a long time is redeemed from a dry academic obsession to a meaningful theatrical performance. The modern fable Sen weaves out of the contemporary miserable state of affairs in West Bengal is implicitly known to the spectator. In the land of Gaandua (most instructive name and more to be found if one cares to gloss over the scatological parlance used throughout the play) Mayaram, the underworld don reigns supreme by nipping his rivals with ruthless resolute force. The corporate men and powers that be hire him to take up the political affairs of the land and then he schemes a rollicking plot riding roughshod over them. Everyone in the name of democracy abets Maya to perpetrate mayhem to meet his ends. In this manner the play *POTEKSON brakes up the memory of 'The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte' on which Marx wrote a brilliant political pamphlet demonstrating how the class struggle in France created circumstances and relationships that made it possible for a grotesque mediocrity to play the hero's part. The rich political overtones in POTEKSON takes viewers down memory lane reminding of marvellous theatre groups of Calcutta that agitated the populace for the people's cause imbued in leftist tradition. After 35 years of fidgeting with power when the officious communist parties have lost their raison d'etre, it takes courage to uphold the Marxist tradition on the Calcutta stage which now audaciously degrades Hamlet, the prince of Denmark to a loafer of North Calcutta in the name of deconstruction or what have you. Apart from developing into a splendid actor under the tutelage of colossus Utpal Dutt, Sen seems to imbibe his mentor's perspicacity to take up contemporary political issues. POTEKSON proves beyond a reasonable doubt that theatre can be a splendid phenomenon in terms of provoking sceptical thoughts while retaining the Brechtian spass. Much like the solitary drop-scene emulating masterpieces of world painting which appears like a cinematic montage to emphasise the milieu, Sen deftly uses music as in the overture where roll of drums followed by silence unfold in crescendo ending up with an atrocious song that represents the most popular trend of this scoundrel time not to mention diligent use of Kabir Suman numbers to paint the contemporary ethos. The performance naturally has its lapses. While Shantilal Mukherjee as Baniji ,Sagnik as Bhanu, Soma Naha as Andheri and Sen himself in the lead role make noteworthy demonstration of the characters, some of the co-actors lay bare the infectious tradition of dud-acting suited to television serials. Some even lack the elementary training to raise their voices without screaming. But the way the director uses the space and builds up composition with a big cloth covering the stage, directs crowd scenes and schemes zone acting, those individual blemishes may easily be ignored in appreciation of the spirit of the team for rendering such a splendid production that makes many leave the theatre with a feeling which can best be explained quoting Brecht: "The political illiterate is so stupid that he is proud and swells his chest saying that he hates politics. The imbecile doesn't know that, from his political ignorance is born the prostitute, the abandoned child, and the worst thieves of all, the bad politician, corrupted and flunky of the national and multinational companies."

[*POTEKSON: Produced by Ashoknagar Natya Anan. 2nd January 2014. Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata. Bengali adaptation, Music and Direction: Chandan Sen, Light: Joy Sen]


Vol. 46, No. 38, Ma r30 - Apr 5, 2014