Dirgha Din Dagdha Raat – A backwater play in the stream of time

Posted by Kaahon Desk On August 26, 2018

On last 20th August Theatre Workshop staged their newest production ‘Dirgha Din Dagdha Raat ’ at the Academy of Fine Arts. The play, based on the Pulitzer Prize winner ‘Long Day’s Journey into Night’ by the Nobel Laureate playwright Eugene O’Neill, has been written by the eminent thespian Chandan Sen and directed by Ashok Mukhopadhyay.

The play, taking place on a single day, portrays the story of four people of a single family. The patriarch of the family Dipesh Sanyal is an erstwhile famous actor of the Bengali stage, his wife Sucharita suffers from physical illness and depression, their son Rupesh is an unestablished journalist, and their daughter Buli is mentally troubled due to her miserable married life. They live in an old house enclosed with plush gardens at Duttapukur. Dipesh and Sucharita wish to spend the rest of their life there since the place teems with old heritage and its crevices breathe pain and sighs. Rupesh and Buli however expect to find a light of change by investing the place into promoting. The conflict between the old and the new keeps the story afloat. Dipesh has an unpleasant relationship with his children. His relation with his wife although seems to be stable, is actually volatile. The shadow of the past haunts each and every one of them. Nirmala, the aged housemaid of the family, is the only positive character in the play who tries to bring peace in all of their respective lives. Four years later all of a sudden Buli’s husband, Basudeb, appears at a midnight; giving a ray of hope to this hopeless and troubled family, the character, that had a negative tone on it from the beginning, gradually in the fag end of the play appears to be the flag-bearer of a promising future in the hands of the writer. The curtain falls with a streak of hope glimmering past the dark cloud of despair, which can be termed as a ‘Happy Ending’.

Previous Kaahon Theatre Review:

The four leading characters of this play, quite like in the source play by Eugene, are reluctant to admit their weaknesses and failures; instead, they hold the other family members accountable for that. All the argument and theatricality of the play stem from this self-delusion of the characters. To prevent this contention Eugene’s characters find refuge in addiction, in that state they criticize their past, and sometimes even appears to be agreeable to each other. The present dramatist Chandan Sen is under no obligation to uphold this consonance. He has chosen a plain and simple story where certain slips in the personal life of the patriarch have caused the trouble in the other members’ lives. Floating entirely on the opposite course of the main play, it ends as an utterly imputed, artificial comedy. The language of the play is reminiscent of the successful plays staged at the beginning of the ‘80s and ‘90s. It is uncertain when Chandan Sen actually wrote the play, but presenting it at this time demands a little more thoughtfulness. He has certainly tried to contemporize a play set in an American background with the Bengali perception, character and environment, turning it into a complete Bengali play, but could not slough off its Western skin altogether and therefore the play loses its credibility. It is rather unlikely to witness a Bengali family, in order to settle the disagreement among the members, suddenly plans to have breakfast, lunch etc. together. This seemingly far-fetched idea resulted in a detachment between the play and the audience right from the beginning. The scene of hallucination is amateurish as well; a character makes an onstage appearance just to present some important information to the audience! Too much dependence on dialogue has weighed the play down at times, causing a disruption of concentration. Adapted theatricality is unmistakably present in the total dialogue of the play, so whenever Dipesh reiterates his dialogues from the plays in which he had once acted, they fail to touch the striking overtones.

Thanks to his experience, Ashok Mukhopadhyay has successfully endowed the character of Dipesh with thorough believability. With the long speeches and movement, a powerful and efficient actor comes to light, although a touch of fatigue is apparent in his behavior. This weariness is not of the character but, as it seems, of reaching the fag end of the acting career. Suranjana Dasgupta with her effortless acting has done justice to the character of Sucharita. Lokenath De has amply projected the suppressed anger of the character Rupesh. Bindiya Ghosh with a subtle exaggeration in her acting technique has perfectly delineated Buli’s obstinacy and restlessness. But the artificiality of the dialogue has prevented the actors to use their full potential. Nayana Saha with her acting has fulfilled the demands of the character Nirmala, and she also has a melodious voice. But in their respect, Sumitra Bandopadhyay, in the shoes of Basudeb, appears quite incompetent. The voice of the character Angira in the telephonic conversation sounds edgy too!

The stage designing by Neel Kaushik is pleasant. Occasional glimpses of the sky in between the shadowy picture of jungle preset in the background screen are quite meaningful. The stage and light (Badal Das) have paired well. Music by Murari Roychowdhury is an important part of this play; the introductory song sets the mood of the play admirably, the tunes of the other two folksongs are soothing as well. The touch of modernity in the dress designed by Suranjana Dasgupta reflects the present day. The thought behind the titling design of the play, done by Nilabha Chattopadhyay, is great and deserves a special mention as well, although it is a topic that is generally overlooked in this discourse.

A good many productions by Theatre Workshop had once reached such an eminence that even after all these years they are equally vibrant in our memory. And therefore, a cloud of excitement and expectancy naturally rounds up around their new works, which this production has completely failed to uphold. Perhaps the main reason behind this is choosing a very weak play! We do hope to have the perpetual theatre experience from the venerable Ashok Mukhopadhyay once again in near future.

Pradip Datta
A post-graduation diploma holder of the Department of Media Studies, University of Calcutta, he has been a theatre activist in Bengal for the last twenty five years. He is a freelance journalist by profession. Besides theatre, his passion includes recitation, audio plays and many more.

Translation: Rishav Dutta

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