As much as he felt boxed in by the confines of the proscenium Badal Sarkar, father of Indian street theatre, who famously rebelled against the establishment did write some pieces meant for a regular theatre stage. Among those works is Jodi Aar Ekbar.
Playing on the idiom, ‘be careful what you wish for’, Jodi... picks a common grouse to make the point. Two couples and a single, working woman are all guests at a seaside guest-house. Their conversations reveal that each is unhappy with their partner or the lack of one and their lament that life would have been wonderfully different had they chosen differently.
In Amitava Baksy’s troupe ENAD’s telling of the play at ADA Rangamandira on Saturday, the older of the two couples Karuna and Ratikant Sanyal (played by Sutapa Chandra and Souvik Bose) has lost the romance for each other. Where Karuna mourns the loss of freedom and individuality after marriage, her husband Ratikant takes her consequent dispiritedness and lack of education as a dampener to his life. He is charmed instead by the bold, erudite and independent Manalata (Indrani Baksy).
Atasi (Monidipa Das Bhattacharya), a rich man’s daughter married to struggling writer Sanjay Ghosh (Mitankar Das Sarkar) makes for the other set. Ruing that was she blinded by Sanjay’s literary flourishes and career prospects to the harsh realities of a less-than luxurious life that followed their marriage, Atasi wonders if she was right in declining the more well-off prospects that had come forward for her.
Manager of the guest-house Satyasindhu Seth (Amitava Baksy) doubles as a sutradhar (narrator) and a conscious-keeper, who along with Buddha Jinn (Mousumi Ghosh), a local genie, acts as a catalyst in the story.
The genie grants each character his/her secret desire of the other’s life and partners are swapped. Karuna is set free of marital encumbrances, Manalata who envied Karuna’s life is given hers and Atasi finds herself married to the guest-house’s help Brijnath (Ranajit Debnath) who is now a moneyed businessman. Sanjay is a published author who finds that success tethers him to nothing but the bottle.
The characters now discover what their ‘fancied’ alternate life holds for them.
Sprinkled with light satire, live singing and music, ENAD’s Jodi Aar Ekbaar first belonged to the women in the cast. As amateur theatreartistes, they were confident and at ease and took on their characters well. Amitava Baksy’s experience with theatre was obvious and Souvik Bose and Ranajit Debnath charmed.
But the applause must go to the troupe, the backstage help, light and sound in-charge and volunteers who carry on with their love of theatre despite days jobs and with a niche audience to appeal to Bangalore.