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The Emperor of Many Felonies

In an adapted play of Albert Camus ‘Caligula’ city-based theatre group Shudrka portray a cruel king’s atrocities smoothly.

Published: 06th April 2016 06:55 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th April 2016 06:55 AM   |  A+A-

HYDERABAD: Though French author and philosopher Albert Camus, much like Sartre, many times denied being termed as an Existentialist, his works have proved otherwise. His nihilistic work ‘Caligula’ was part of his ‘Cycle of the Absurd’. It’s about a Roman emperor who having sunken deep into depression declares cruelty as equality. The expeditions of this cruelty start after his sister and lover Princess Drusilla dies. This tears him apart and he quests for ‘Absolute’ after arriving to the conclusion that people are not happy because they die and have to die. But his quest is a concoction of horror and contempt which results in rampant murders, seizure of properties, rape of wives of noblemen of the court and swiping all that has values attached. He calls it rebellion against Fate and declares himself almost God who can take anyone’s life at his will. Camus shows the meaninglessness of life more than as a philosophical debate and hence it falls into ‘Theatre of the Absurd’. Shudrka Hyderabad adapted ‘Ek Soirachari Rajar Katha’ from the play and performed it on stage at Lamakaan.

The performance by the artistes of Shudrka Hyderabad was theatrical and not dramatic. Performed in Bengali, the play holds the plot well. Director Swapan Mondal, who played the king, portrayed the character as madly as it could have been portrayed. The madness was fierce and evoked pathos more when he asks one of the patricians to bring the moon. He goes on rambling, “Chaad tumi kothay (O moon where are you?)” After the death of his sister-lover Aparupa the king doesn’t sleep for nights and denies that anything is wrong with him. He forces the patricians of his court to assert that the King is the ultimate. One by one people around him start rebelling in some way or the other. His mistress Kamini doesn’t leave his side and while talking to the court poet Taruni says, “Amaar shorir amaar kobita (my body is my poetry)”. The poet, surprisingly is a female who plays the role. She is not happy with Raja as he got her father, another great poet of the state, killed. Taruni is despondent, angry and at the same time has pity for the Raja. The stage was set with elements of darkness in contrast with light. Music of violin was played from behind in between verses of great Bengali poets like Tagore and Shankha Ghosh. 

The unpredictable behaviour of Raja is both universal and personal and at the same riveting. This

heightens tension in the audience that expects something out of unpredictability. All this while, atrocities all around prepare his own funeral as anger rises in his people leading to plans of his assassination.

The calculated madness of the Raja persists. He badly wants the moon despite knowing that it’s impossible to get the moon and to the thought of holding it in his hands is nothing short of absurd. He emphasises that when he holds the moon in his hands everything people won’t die. He wants his subjects to understand the truth of impossibility. He kills his mistress Kamini. And then he’s brutally killed.

The last words of the Raja were: “My way of freedom wasn’t right.” The proof of Absurdity is stark naked that if Raja’s path was not right then whose? This play is worth watching as it tries to find some answers and at the same time raises more questions one by one.

More from Hyderabad.

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