Friday Review

The colour of nightmare

FROM SURREAL TO REAL A scene from the play.  

Torit Mitra, a painter-turned-playwright-director, is a keen observer of humanity living in a world torn by national chauvinism, war and mutual distrust . His plays staged by Sansaptak, a leading theatre group, are rich in metaphorical meaning and the design he himself conceptualises transforms his plays into an intense visual poetry, projecting nightmarish world of modern man. Most of his earlier plays have linear structure, adhering to the unity of time, place and action. His latest play “7 Raison d'etre” (Reasons of Being) presented by Sansaptak at B.C. Pal auditorium, is an experimental dramatic piece which projects a dark and bitter vision of contemporary society. Inspired by Akira Kurosawa's film “Yume” or ‘Dreams’, it is a creative effort to capture dreams projecting fragmented visual imagery marked by magic and surrealism.

Such a challenging script is directed by Sreemoyee Dasgupta , who is groomed as a theatre artist by Torit Mitra and Ruma Bose, the organisational and creative force that has raised Sansaptak, a multilingual theatre group marked by its commitment to offer discerning audience an artistic and socially relevant theatre. Sreemoyee’s debut as the director is promising who captures the right kind of ambience for projecting on the stage the fragments of dreamscape which have no beginning, no middle and no ending. This is an attempt to explore images embedded in the multiple recesses of human psyche. Subtle lighting design and variety of off stage musical tunes drawn from western and Indian music like compositions of Satyajit Ray, Rabindranath Tagore and Don McLean are aptly used as expressive means. Despite the fragmentary character of narrative, the blending of music and lighting projecting myriad hues imbue the production with a rhythm exuding feverish consciousness of humanity living in a dreadful and nightmarish world, a world which is heading towards a blind alley. Painter-turned-dramatist Torit’s images are painted by the director with colours which impart depth to playwright’s tormented vision.

One of the images illustrates that the existence of humanity is made dreadful by the collaboration of capitalism and unscrupulous scientists to produce nuclear weapons to annihilate human civilisation. There are seven images which reinforce the basic idea –dark and bitter – the play seeks to illustrate. There is a fragmented sequence showing soldiers killed in a war. They died because of the criminal negligence of their commander. Here the dead soldiers and commander confront each other. In their confrontation the boundaries between the dead and alive, time and space are blurred and distorted.

In one image we meet painter Vincent van Gogh in an impoverished state, suffering from depression and interacts with his model, a woman, who questions the artist about the definition of art. Obsessed with his own inadequacy as a creative person and disturbed state of mind, the artist commits suicide.

In one place, we watch Buddhist monks chanting “Buddham Sharanam Gachhami”, conveying world peace as the panacea for humanity afflicted by morbidity. But in a world full of violence and mutual hatred all pacifist messages have lost their power to change the world.

Though the director sustained the ambience of the surrealism to create a metaphoric meaning for nightmarish, distorted and abstract dream world, she treats the concluding image in a realistic style which is about a barren landscape. A photographer is wandering to discover the causes of total devastation of the land. He starts conversation with a woman, asking her why the land is barren and why there is no river. The woman replies, “where there is no river, there cannot not be fertility.” The sequence seeks to use the character of woman as the metaphor for the mother earth. The change from surrealism to realism tends to be abrupt. The director should have sustained the ambience of surrealism with heightened musical tunes and stylised lighting effects.

The set with an abstract structure placed upstage is in tune with the basic aesthetics of the production. The two levels of the structure are aptly used for stylised movements of the performers. And the fine ensemble acting enriches the production.


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Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 7:27:02 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/The-colour-of-nightmare/article16667508.ece

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