WBRi Drama Review: Bangla Natok CHOKHER BALI at Tapan Theater Performed by Maru Behag with Inmates of Alipore Correctional Homes

Poster of Rabindranath Tagore's CHOKHER BALI Bangla Natok

Kolkata February 23, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio / Penning Creations) Tapan Theater has witnessed a long history of notable stage performances by renowned troupes. However on 22nd of February, 2012, the situation was slightly different as the audience was greeted to performers of a special kind.

The members of troupe ‘Maru Behag’ and the inmates of Alipore Central Correctional Home and Alipore Women’s Correctional Home performed Rabindranath Tagore’s seminal masterpiece ‘Choker Bali’ on stage.

A Scene from Bengali Drama CHOKHER BALI (Bangla Natok)

The play was performed to celebrate the 150th birth centenary of one of the most influential figures of Bengali literature. However, one does not often get to watch stage performances by inmates of a correctional house, but watching them perform passionately on stage surely lifted our spirits.

A Scene from Bengali Theater CHOKHER BALI (Bangla Natok)

For people who have been deprived of a more traditional course of life, their rendition of the Tagore novel appeared even more remarkable. They performed with unprecedented fervor, completely oblivious of the numerous police personnel that surveyed the area and formed a part of their audience. The freewheeling performance of the cast pleased many and one could occasionally catch curious eyes popping in and out of the auditorium.

Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Chokher Bali’ (loosely translated as eyesore) describes the customs and practices prevalent in early twentieth century Bengal. Being a visionary much ahead of his times, the bard, through the novel, spoke against the practice of relegating widows to a life of constant mourning and seclusion.

The play begins with the introduction of Binodini, who has recently been widowed after the sudden death of her husband. Although she is young, intelligent and convent educated, she has been reduced to live a life of mourning and loneliness, given the cruel traditions of the then society. At the insistence of Rajlakshmi, she decides to take refuge at her place, where the mother dwells with her son Mahendra and his newlywed wife Ashalata.

Incidentally, Mahendra had earlier rejected a marriage proposal from Binodini. Another important character is Behari, who being friend to Mahendra had suppressed his earlier desire to marry Ashalata. Although Mahendra is at peace in his married life and deeply loves his wife, he begins to develop an uncontrollable desire for the widowed Binodini.

For Mahendra, the English educated Binodini stands in sharp contrast to his rather naïve spouse, and is at par with his wit and intelligence while engaging in a repartee with him.  Soon, the two engage in clandestine amorous exchanges in the house. Situations soon spiral out of control before everything is out in the open.

Chokher Bali is about passion plays. It is about the sexual liberation of a widow, dealing with a long history of repression and the far reaching consequences she causes in families and individuals. Tagore’s visionary work also speaks against greed and the resulting personal sense of loss and despair of an arrogant male.

Tagore’s influential novel was beautifully portrayed as a stage drama by the exclusive performers. The play was well written and successfully put together on stage by Jolly Guharoy. The members of the cast befitted the characters and there were very few flip-flops. All in all, the stage performance of ‘Chokher Bali’ at Tapan Theater was a fitting tribute to the master on his 150th birth centenary.

Enhanced by Zemanta