Torit Mitra’s latest play vividly portrays the absurdity of human life in the context of sexual exploitation, fragile family bonds, betrayal and social disgrace in a society.
Playwright-director Torit Mitra is a serious artist whose productions are remarkable for precision and fusion of colour, music and theme to create an artistic whole. All his works have been staged by Sansaptak in Bengali and Hindi to reach to a wider audience. His latest play “Mritasaucha” presented at B.C. Pal Auditorium, C.R. Park, New Delhi, is a disturbing comment on the “absurdity” of the human life.
The play is set in a Rajasthani milieu, focusing on the life of a family belonging to a community disgraced and declared outcaste outcast by a society dominated by high castes. They lead a miserable existence, struggling to survive. We meet four main characters — a middle-aged woman, her young daughter, an old man who is unable to speak mute and a young man. The mother and daughter keep on moving from place to place to entertain people of higher caste. With the arrival of the young man, a stranger from Mumbai, the past of the women is revealed — a the sordid saga of sexual exploitation, fragile family bonds, betrayal and social disgrace.
The middle-aged woman tells the young man that when she was young she was the mistress of a feudal lord. She had a son by him, and a male baby was born out of the wedlock of this illicit relationship and who left her once he grew up. The old man was once a singer in love with her. The old man, a singer was in love with her, in the family is the witness to her tragic past. He was in love with her and was a singer. The feudal lord man who was treating her as his mistress was against the singer and cut him and mutilated his tongue, rendering him to render him permanently mute. Now, because of his attachment, the old man continues to stay with the family, even though the young daughter hates him and treats him like a slave.
In a long scene about the encounter between the stranger and the young daughter, the latter young woman recounts her life as sexually abused by different men. She says a girl’s honour is protected by her father, husband and brother. But in her case when she was sexually exploited by a priest, her own father started to abuse her and the man she loved deserted her. As for her beloved brother, he whom she loved dearly disappeared one day.
The focus of the play is the angst of these women against men as the destroyers of their happiness. They reflect their intense hatred through the their delivery of lines, internally motivated movements, music and dance. Though director-playwright has not mentioned in his note about the way he has conceptualised his script, it appears that he had has in his mind Albert Camus’s Campus' play “The Misunderstanding” (1943). In Camus’s Campus' play the mother and daughter indulge in criminal acts by killing their lodgers. The son returns from an exile to live happily with his family. He does not reveal his identity. Considering him just another lodger, the mother-daughter duo kills him. Since they have plundered enough money, they decide to leave the place and live happily in a better place. Too late they come to know that the young man they killed is the son who came home to stay with them and wanted to provide them a life of comfort and happiness.
In Torit’s production the mother and daughter kill the stranger more as a motive of revenge against male tyranny. After their dastardly act, they come to know that the stranger was none other than the long lost son who had settled in Mumbai and had come to take them to Mumbai to liberate them from the life social disgrace and deprivation. Here too the stranger concealed his identity. The essence in both the plays is the similar – “the absurdity of life” and human beings’ man's inability to communicate with each other that leads to the destruction of the a desire to be happy.
The novelty of Torit’s production lies in his artistry in creating a distinct Rajasthani folk flavour and milieu in which the tribes there live – with their womenfolk vulnerable to the lust of the powerful. . to lend to his production a distinct Rajasthani folk flavour and the milieu in which Rajasthani tribe lives whose women are vulnerable to the lust of the powerful. In most of the production, backstage music and sound play an important role. Here too In this production we hear Music based on Rajasthani folk tunes composed by Arnab Dasgupta is used to heighten the atmosphere and dramatic tension. In fact, Songs, dances and costumes are blended with the theme.
Set design by Anjon Bose using materials like jute and hard paper and wooden frames provides the right background for the action which takes place in the house of the mother-daughter duo. The colour of the kind of colour these materials are painted and the subtle lighting effects project a bleak vision of the human condition. The director has treated the climactic scene with consummate artistry showing . The scene shows the murder of the stranger and revelation of , revealing his identity to the killers. In a restrained restraint manner, the killers bring to the fore their intensely agonised inner world. The death dead is given a ritualistic touch prevalent in the community.
Ruma Bose as the mother and Sreemoyee Dasgupta as the daughter give a brilliant account of themselves as singers, vigorous folk dancers and actors. Rana Mitra as the mute old man displays his mysteriously dreadful character through facial expressions and his gait. Indrajit Das as adult Digvijay, the stranger, illuminates the portrait of his character.