Kolkata theate festival depicts struggle between individual and social forces

Published: Monday 31 July 2006

Bhalo Rakkhosher Galpo produced by Swapnasandhani Theatre Group Kolkata directed by Koushik Sen

The Swapnasandhani Theatre Group of Kolkata turned fourteen in May and staged a four-day theatre festival to mark the occasion. There were five plays from May 26-29, 2006 -- all directed by Koushik Sen and all dealing with the tense struggle between individual and larger social forces.

Bhalo Rakkhosher Galpo (The Story of a Good Giant) was staged on May 28 in a small auditorium, Sujatha Sadan. The play has been dramatised by the group from an allegorical fairy tale by Jaya Mitra, who was present during the performance.

The most important features of Bhalo Rakkhoser Galpo was its unequivocal message: The young nadi (river) has been captured by Shobchai Daitya (the ogre who wanted it all) and all species of the animal kingdom set out to rescue her with the help of Bhalo Rakkhosh (good giant) who is a nephew of aunt Earth. The cast was largely made up of children.

The environmental message in the play was in an allegorical form, packed in a fairy tale. Nevertheless, the audience was left in no doubt about the message. The policy of constructing large dams across rivers is creating enormous ecological problems and affecting all forms of life. The allegorical nadi is chained and harnessed, so that for a large part of the play she remains underground, enslaved in the cavernous abode of Shobchai Daitya. Her friend Alomoni, the princess of Light, gather the ants and other insects to help her friend. Shobchai Daitya, meanwhile, pretends to be a scientist with a secret formula. The demon, played by Koushik Sen, creates giant vegetables and fruits in his laboratory. The king, Alomoni's father, is pleased to think hunger is at an end but discovers that the vegetables have gold ribbons within that soon turn black. The play's message is carried forward by the female characters: the men make the mistakes, the women right the wrong. Alomoni, Nadi, Jhijhi Buri, the Earth are all positive characters. So are the insects and Bhalo Rakkhosh, all played by children. Bhalo Rakkhosh, disguised as a sea gull manages to defeat Shobchai Daitya and rescue the river in the end.

The play's limitations were many. But the small auditorium and the children's uneven performance were made insignificant by the imaginative stage settings and the costumes. The cast performed with an energy that was truly uplifting. Ultimately, Jaya Mitra's remarkable tale of man's greed and man's capacity for courageous actions succeed in achieving what it set out to do. It made the audience think.

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