Bengali play “Missed Call” traces the inability of language in communicating what the heart feels. By introducing mobile phones to the stage as a metaphor the director shows communication through language despite new devices is extremely difficult.
Eugene Ionesco, leading exponent of the Theatre of the Absurd, emphasised that communication between human beings through words is very difficult and described this situation as the “tragedy of language.” Bengali play “Missed Call” presented by Naye Natua Kolkata under the auspices of Impresario India at Shri Ram Centre this past week, gives a new dimension to the “tragedy of language.”
By introducing mobile phones to the stage as a metaphor the director shows communication through language despite new devices is extremely difficult. At another level, the play reveals the absurdity of human situation, a situation in which man finds himself out of harmony with his surroundings. The script is remarkable for its originality, the production for its sleekness and the acting for its brilliance.
On the surface, it is the tragic story of two young brothers who are in a mental hospital. Preoccupied with the dream of their love for the same girl, they are haunted by their past, while being oblivious to their present. They keep talking on their mobile phones to the imagined listener. The brothers have been under extreme societal and parental pressure. Parents wanted them to shine in life, achieve success in their career. The intense rivalry to win over the heart of the girl and the pressure to gain a status in society resulted in mental instability.
Directed by Gautam Halder, the play opens in a room of a mental hospital with a bench shared by the brothers, with each trying to have the whole bench for himself, displacing the other. But they do not forget to talk on their mobile phones, taking seriously their imagined listener, changing their tone, facial expressions and mood. They are impervious to the fact that their talks are not responded to.
There is another layer to the play. In the course of their incoherent debate on heterogeneous topics, they indulge in impersonation of their father, the rival brother and the girl they loved. They reverse roles. This device provides the background of the brothers and the complications in their lives caused by the love triangle.
In these enactments and talks on phones, communication is shrouded by vagueness, often bordering on gibberish. It becomes a source of humour.
The game of impersonation is interrupted by the visits of the lady doctor who examines them. As soon as the doctor starts talking to the patients, they are transported into a world of fantasy. In this fantasy world, the doctor becomes the beloved and they dance in ecstasy. When they descend from fantasy to stark reality, they become morose, and resume their conversation on the mobile at a feverish pitch.
Written by Debshankar Halder, the play unfolds on a bare space with a single bench on the centre stage. Free of clutter, the fantasy sequences have a dreamy aura about them, imparting the production verve.
However, the director is not able to create the right ambience of a mental hospital and its suffocation. It is strange to watch a lady doctor unaccompanied by any attendant visiting unstable patients.
To portray a psychiatric patient is a challenging task for an actor. Gautam Halder and Debshankar Halder give a brilliant account of themselves while portraying the abnormal behaviour of mental patients. As they indulge in verbal acrobatics, they evoke laughter. They display a unique sense of blending the comic with the serious. Dyuti Ghosh as the doctor display compassion and grace.