Saumik-Piyali: Pushing theatre beyond furniture making on stage

Posted by Kaahon Desk On August 15, 2017

Saumik Chakraborty has a Diploma in Painting from Birla Academy. Piyali Sadhukhan did her Graduation in Visual Arts from Rabindra Bharati University followed by her Post Graduation from Kalabhawan. Together they had formed a formidable team and had produced some of the most exciting and innovative designing works in Bengali Theatre in the recent past. Their journey in theatre began way back in 2000 when both of them were mere students. They started out as assistants to Sanchayan Ghosh while their work with ‘Samikkhan’ theatre group marked their debut. 2003 saw them joining ‘Nandikar’ where they continued working for eight years. Some of their most remarkable works with ‘Nandikar’ include Chokh Gelo, BappadityaJaha ChaiAggyatobash and Madhabi among others. They had also worked in some acclaimed productions in other groups such as 221B Baker Street with Storyteller, Macbeth with SwapnasandhaniRuddhasangeet with Bratyajan and Khudito Pashan with Padatik among countless others.

With a considerable exposure to visual and fine arts, both Piyali Sadhukhan and Saumik Chakraborty believe that theatre should be an extension of the practice they are trained in. Otherwise, it becomes a futile and pointless exercise for them, their abilities reduced to that being a carpenter working on drawing room furniture. They look back on their days in ‘Nandikar’ and even their experience with some other directors who had creative foresight and also gave them adequate freedom to think and work out of the box. It is not merely question of displaying their artistic flair but also being able to explore the space and more importantly explore the text. Such an engaging and serious approach can highlight the sub-text or the meta-text. Instead of sticking to conventional practices, if one defamiliarizes things, as they give the iconic examples of Dadaist artistes like Duchamp, etc., it can result in a whole new experience. According to Saumik this whole idea of perspective or the viewing position from where the text is perceived is always the key factor determining its relevance and impact.

When asked about the contemporary tendencies in in Bengali theatre in terms of designing, both of them sound disapproving and almost dismissive. They find the contemporary practices to be largely superficial and it seems that the entire creative investment is towards making it look spectacular instead of meaningful. Saumik sounds pessimistic as he expresses serious doubts regarding the educational qualification, not academic but rather about the practical knowledge of the personnel involved and whether they are at all equipped to engage with a text to bring out the desired effect. They are lacking both in craft as well as in the philosophy behind it. This is indeed a very sad situation as theatre is always intended to go beyond the surface reality. What Bengali theatre is doing is effectively taking a step backward.

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