Drama Review: Mumunur Rashid's RARANG - Long Live the Battle Cry for Freedom! (Nandikar’s 28th National Theater Festival)

[jpg image: Bangla natok Rarang]

[jpg image: Bangla natok Rarang]

[jpg image: Bangla natok Rarang]

[jpg image: Bangla natok Rarang]

December 24, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio / Penning Creations):The directorial genius of Mamunur Rashid and his insights on the Santal Revolt in Northern Bangladesh comes out most clearly in the critically acclaimed stage production by Aranyak, ‘Rarang’ or the Battle Cry.

On 21 December, 2011, the theater-happy crowd of Kolkata was treated with yet another enthralling edition of this stage act at the Academy of Fine Arts, put up as a part of the Nandikar’s 28th National Theater Festival.

Enacted for more than a 100th time in a row, Rarang is a heart-wrenching depiction of the oppression that the Santals of Vimpur (a village in Naogaon) were put through – by the ruling Bengalis in 1947, with allusions to the Santal Revolt of 1855 during British Raj.

Inspired by the real life story of Alfred Shoren, the tribal leader who set an example of brave rebellion against the feudalism and racism, the play is enriched by the performances of veteran stage actors, like Tomalika Karmaker and Chanchal Chowdhury, apart from a memorable stint by the director himself.

Mumunur Rashid has been quite an activist who not only throws light on poignant social issues ailing his home nation but also does his part in raining general concern about it. And, his popularity and acceptability is quite evident from the response Rarang has received even after completing a century of successful stage enactments.

After a narration that introduces the theme, the first scene of the play familiarizes the audience with the troubled life of the Santals, forced to leave their homeland Tanore and migrate to a distant place where they will be spared the atrocities of the state. The play also touches some burning social issues (remarriage of widows, etc), focusing on the simple and uncomplicated social structure of the Santals. Abundant doses of comedy, with underlying satire, have also been integrated into the play’s narrative.

Amidst all the chaos that seem to surround the tribal inhabitants and the string of deceptions that they experience, the burning flame of rebellion never leave them as they put up one fight after another against Godai (a greedy Bengali Zamindar or Landlord). Alfred Shoren gives a voice to these intermittent expressions of anger and demonstrations of protests and is even successful in scaring off the so called enforcers-of-law.

Definitely notable for their remarkable contribution were the musicians, with their repertoire of instruments significantly setting the mood to different scenes. Intermittent dance performances by the actors also played an important role in giving the play a distinct Santal flavor. Since its premiere in September 4 of 2004, Rarang hasn’t failed to gather acclamations and appraisals for the impressive acts put up time and time again.

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