ENAD (Ekti NAtaker Dal), Bangalore’s all-Bengali hobbyist theatre troupe, will perform four shows of their new production Na Moron (Un-Death) at K H Kalasoudha this weekend. A play that took the 27-actor, 15-band cast about nine months to rehearse, was written by stage actor-director and filmmaker Sudipto Chatterjee as a student of English at St Xavier’s in Kolkata nearly 30 years ago.
“I thought the script was lost,” says Sudipto. “When I wrote the play, I didn’t really think about stage-ability: it required a 30-odd member cast, not merely of actors, but of actors who could sing and a band of Bengali folk musicians,” he says. Although it was widely appreciated even then, the literature student couldn’t find a single group that was willing to perform it, so he declared with anger that he would never get the play performed. “You know the arrogance and energy of youth,” he laughs.
Soon after, Sudipto lost his copy of the script and was surprised when his college junior, fellow theatre artist and founder of ENAD, Amitava Baksy called him a year or two ago to say that he had preserved a copy and wanted to stage a production.
“Back when I was writing it, some friends of mine would come, stay the night in my room and take dictation of the play from me, and Amitava used to do it a lot,” recalls Sudipto.
Amitava chips in, “A bunch of us were fascinated by different dialects of Bengali, and we decided to try and learn some of them. What started out as fun became a far serious study, and Sudipto started to write a play using it.”
Na Moron talks about the constant human struggle with death and dream of immortality centred on a farmer couple. Rongo and Mukto, on their way home after watching a play, encounter Yamraj (God of Death), who blesses them with immortality.
“But with immortality have to come eternal youth and happiness -- most people don’t realise that it could also become boring,” muses Amitava.
For the playwright, the work represents his reflections on death. “I lost my father at a young age,” he explains. “Also, I wanted to break the norm. Back then, the theatre in Bengal revolved around socialism, realism and naturalism, while in the rest of India, theatre was going back to the folk form, especially in Karnataka. ”
So what emerged was a fairytale influenced by Greek mythology on the one hand and the political scenario in the mid-eighties on the other. And the play culminates in a revolution, so the playwright hopes that the audience can connect to it better, thanks to issues being raised by these elections.
Yet, Sudipto tells City Express that when Amitava sent him his copy of the script and he read it over, he felt that were he to write it now, the play might shape up differently. “But a play is like a child,” he relents, “You can’t change it once it has grown up.”
Declaring that he hasn’t interfered in the production since Amitava, who’s directing it, was present when it was born, Sudipto says he’s just as curious to watch the production as the rest of the audience.
“I have great respect for the Bangalore audience -- like Bharata says in Natyasastra, they are sahrdaya rasika, sensitive and discerning,” he expresses.
However, Amitava has already started scouting for opportunities. “I have bigger plans,” he says, adding that he’s in talks with a couple of art festivals that take place in Kolkata.
(Na-Moron at K H Kalasoudha, Ramanjaneya Temple Compound, Hanumanth Nagar, on April 26 and April 27. To block seats, call 96202-16554)