No less a genius than Vijay Tendulkar, who had challenged the might of the ‘collective’ culture, which anchored the contemplative Indian society, when he wrote the play ‘Sakharam Binder’ in 1972. The play was banned in 1974 for its outrageous narrative. Many winds have blown over India and many waters have flown through various Indian rivers. India is now swaying with the waves of Globalization and Consumerism.But the private truths about morality, sexuality, and violence are still equally valid as they were in the days when the play was written. This is the reason “Prachya”(Theatre Group) staged the play‘Sakharam’, directed by Abanti Chakraborty idiomatically; it was never a problem to relate with the present reality in which the Kolkata audiences are living in. The impeccable translation/adaptation of the Marathi play in Bengali by Abanti Chakraborty opens to us the world of Sakharam Binder, who is a loner and refutes the unfair society, which he loathes. Sakharam brings few women who have been discarded by their husbands, to his hovel and gives them shelter, food and two saris a year. In return, the women will have to perform their wifely duties including sharing their bodies. ‘Sakharam’, the play questions the hypocrisy of the ‘bonds of marriage’.
— kaahon (@kaahonwall) May 7, 2017
Each audience was shaken by the dubious character of Sakharam played by Goutam Halder with his matured, skilled yet convincing craft of acting. Sakharam was successful in going deep under the skin of the audiences and ask them what they undergo in their marital status, under the facade of social respectability. Often accused of imposing acting mannerisms, Gautam Halder has sagely designed the same mannerism for portraying Sakharam and hassubtly brought out that man, who is unapologetic for his violence, rage during quenching his sexual appetite yet a rescuer of women suffering from societal oppressions. Credit must go to the Director’s sensibility and Gautam Halder’s maturity, when sexual atrocities were been enacted with restrained symbolical body gestures and minimal physical contact. This sensibility retarded vulgarity but never abetted the uncomfortable position of the audiences, when they experienced the sexual violence of all forms on objectified women hidden behind the curtains of domesticity. Dyuti Ghosh surprised the audiences with her practiced learning of craft of acting to portray ‘Lakkhi’, a trembling leaf of gratitude and compliance, who worshipped Sakharam like a wife. Manisha Adok earned her rightful applauds with her sharp dominating bold performance to create sultry Champa on stage. Her entire body became the language which brought to life the character of Champa, who is outspoken about her physicality and candid of her choices. Manisha projected her versatility to even bring out Champa’s vulnerabilities when she is sexually tortured and needs to be in an alcoholic haze to bear those tortures. Sakhram’s friend Dawood or the betrayer as the narrative of the play later turns him to, played by Biplab Bandyopadhyay and Champa’s ex-husband played by Ashim Roy Chowdhury formed the other casts, their contribution towards performing those characters with realistic details in their physical gestures and accent of their speech is remarkable.
The entire design of the play is allegorical and bounds the audiences to imagine the space and time the narrative is placed in. The space and context of the play is communicated as much with the dialogues as with minimal set design and sound. Abanti brought the inner conscious of the actors to the audiences through figurative usage of mise-en-scenes with the help of light design by Debashish Chakraborty. The emblematic use of chains eponymous to domestic comfort camouflaging the moral virtues is praiseworthy. Though the production could have been probably more engaging if the entire design encompassed some Indianness. The ambience sound could have been an aide to this suggestion since the context of the play has geographic specifications.
The play could have been edited a bit to give more a consolidated viewing experience for the audiences. Certain silly mistakes seemed to be muffled with the rhythm of the play. Holding the cup of tea with sari palluwas not consistently maintained.Entering the home and kitchen with slippers could have been avoided.
The successful recreation of the complexities of Sakharam Binder by Abanti Chakraborty inextricablyleft the audiences with no other choices but questioning the prudery of Indian society.