Ella then, Ella now, Ellas are eternal

Posted by Kaahon Desk On December 19, 2018

Belgharia Ruptapash staged their newest production on the Academy Stage, named ‘Ella Aakhon’ which is based on Rabindranath Tagore’s novel ‘Char Adhay’. This play was written and directed by Koushik Ghosh.

When this novel was published in 1934, it produced an instant impact among its readers, especially the revolutionaries found it offensive. Rabindranath had to face criticism from various circles, later in an explanation regarding the novel he wrote: ‘Most of what has been discussed about my novel ‘Char Adhay’ is outside the boundary of literary criticism. Which is normal, because, the plot of the story is tainted in the same colours as our Bengal stuck in the struggle of states. For this reason, the plot of the story has become the main reason of attraction to some readers. If there is some special subject or moral in the story is relatively unimportant. It is evident that the stem of the story is a story of love of a modern couple. It has been dramatized by the backdrop of the struggle against the state. The struggle is dormant; but the convulsion of the revolution has introduced a certain strength and agony in their love, and that alone is the identity of the story.’ Rabindranath has always placed humanity above all things, even above patriotism and nationalism. Absence of humanity demeans the value of everything. If nationalism neglects humanity; it turns into emotive fascination. This philosophy is evident in the love story of Ella and Atindra in the nationalistic backdrop, like many of Rabindranath Tagore’s stories.

Previous Kaahon Theatre Review:

The intolerable conditions of today; where an innately fundamental power is instigating world-wide terror, where a certain nationalistic communal ideology in our country is trying to force history through their designated pathways, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain freedom of thought. The phenomenon of forceful ideologies has demeaned humanity time and again. In our current scenario the production of ‘Char Adhay’ presents itself as strikingly relevant.

When a Play is adapted from ‘Char Adhay’ and named ‘Ella Aakhon’ it is safe to assume that the theme would be contemporary, which in turn instigates excitement about the presentation among the audience. The director has mostly kept the dialogues intact, and through some minor modifications he has reflected the present scenario in a mirror that belongs to the past, although there is no climax; that gives the play a sense of uncertainty through which it escapes the task of determining faith of the present generation. The unique point of the production is that: it is interweaved with the works of poets who came later in time. It helps to construct a fluent pathway to project the current intolerance and restlessness on the audience. It is bound to make the audience think to some degrees. In the beginning Ella tells us about herself, her studies, and her hostel from a certain Tea stall in Jadavpur (owned by a man named Kanai), and upon the entrance of Indranath the narrative of Char Adhaystarts. By the time she comes back in the same Tea stall at the end, it becomes difficult to tear the contemporary Ella apart from the one written eighty-four years ago. The director has avoided any special experimentation with Rabindranath, although he has presented the relativity of Rabindranath in current times with precision and creativity. The play is intermingled with the poetry of Birendra Chattopadhyay, Manibhusan Bhattacharya, Nabarun Bhattacharya, and Bipul Chakraborty. Although it was possible to base this on the poetry of Rabindranath alone, which is the norm in such cases. But this detour in terms of poetry has created a beautiful expressionism and visual landscape. Although it could have done with lesser number of poetic references, and the verses that were presented through the posters are present in Rabindranath’s writing itself. The process of changing them throughout the play has slowed it down a bit, and at times they were lost and prone to exaggeration from the audience’s point of view. This aspect could have been tackled better by the director; as the thought landscape was clearly transmitted by the video projections of certain documentaries on stage; from the director to the audience.

The four stages of the story have been accommodated into two scenes by the director, namely: The Tea stall of Kanai, and the secret safe house of Atindra. Throughout the presentation Ella, Atindra, and Kanai Gupta’s presence is evident. Indranath narrates the introduction, and Batuk is present only as an example. Shipra Mukhopadhyay as Ella, and Tathagata Choudhury as Atindra have helped the play to propagate seamlessly, a sense of mutual understanding is present among them, and both of their verbal eloquence have served them well, which is very crucial to these dialogue oriented dramas. Nilabho Chattopadhyay in the role of Kanai Gupta, although present for a short duration has enriched the presentation with his simple and fluent acting. Biplab Naha in the role of Indranath is relatively plain, and at times even artificial.

The eloquence of Hiran Mitra was evident once again in this production through minimal stage designing which perfectly expresses the subject of the presentation. The soundscapes of Subhendu Maity have assumed an important role in the play, which have helped to steer the narrative in the right direction. The illuminations of Thandu Rahane have resonated with the whole presentation.

The way Koushik Ghosh has presented ‘Char Adhay’ through his own realisations and ideas; a story that has an especially intriguing historic backdrop, deserves praise for the endeavour.

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: Harit Chowdhury

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