Watch a play in Bengaluru: Susanto Banerjee’s ‘The Flame’ is a mystery involving complex relationships

The Flame, which will be staged in Bengaluru on February 24, explores themes of tradition and change

February 22, 2024 11:51 am | Updated 11:51 am IST

A still from Susanto Banerjee’s ‘The Flame’

A still from Susanto Banerjee’s ‘The Flame’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In a theatrical world hungry for both depth and relevance, The Flame promises to deliver a compelling blend. Ventures Theatre Group revisits this Bengali adaptation of a Somerset Maugham story under Susanto Banerjee’s direction. It is a play that tackles complex issues with timeless appeal like tradition, change, and how we define ourselves. 

Originally crafted by the English playwright Maugham and later adapted into Bengali by Tirthankar Chanda, The Flame has been translated back into English by Debleena Roy. This process has preserved the essence of Maugham’s narrative and infused it with an Indian cultural context, offering audiences a layered experience. Since its first staging in 2016, the play has seen over 15 renditions, each adding to its legacy as a piece that intrigues and challenges its viewers.

“The adjustments I’ve made aim to sharpen the play’s focus, removing redundancies and ensuring coherence without disrupting the narrative flow,” Susanto explains, “These edits are subtle, primarily refining the dialogue and narrative structure to enhance clarity and engagement. The core of the play, its flavour, and its impact have been preserved, mirroring the success and acclaim it garnered in previous presentations.”

“The narrative that unfolds an evening conversation revealing complex relationships and a mystery, all set against an Indian backdrop, deeply engaged me,” says Susanto, reflecting on his initial encounter with the Bengali adaptation. His connection to the play is rooted in its ability to offer “layered interpretations and new insights upon each revisit, akin to epics.” This classic nature, coupled with a strikingly contemporary storyline, underscores the director’s vision of making the play accessible and relevant to a modern audience.

Despite its vintage, Susanto insists, “the play remains contemporary, both in its treatment of relationships and the unfolding of its central mystery.” This duality is central to the play’s appeal, providing a canvas for exploring the contrast between traditional and unconventional life perspectives. Susanto’s direction aims to “accurately convey its complex layers,” highlighting the intricacies of human relationships and the choices that define us. His approach emphasises engagement, inviting the audience to delve into the narrative’s depths, echoing his belief that “it is our responsibility to keep the audience fully absorbed.”

Susanto’s directorial approach was to refine the script with minor edits and additions that enhance clarity without altering the core narrative. “The essence and core layers of the story remain unchanged,” he says, underscoring his commitment to maintaining the play’s integrity while navigating the subtleties of character interaction and dialogue that allow for new interpretations.

“One approach to introducing new perspectives is by involving someone else in the production, someone who might see and present the story slightly differently,” he explains. “This method was part of my process; I sought feedback from theatre critics, both familiar and unfamiliar with the play. I provided them with the script and my interpretation, soliciting their insights. This feedback led to several edits, ensuring that while the play’s core remains consistent, about 10% to 15% has been adjusted based on these new inputs.”

The creative team, including Raag Urs on lighting and Gerry Ambrose for music, complements Susanto’s vision, creating an ambience that supports the play’s emotional and philosophical journey.

The Flame plays at Jagriti Theatre, Whitefield, Bengaluru on February 24. Showtimes are 3:30pm and 7:30pm. Tickets on

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