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A journey towards disillusionment

Neel Chaudhuri's “Taramandal” hinges on unfinished ambitions, yet never descends into the tragic. The playwright wanted it that way.

Borrowing the protagonist and his fate from Satyajit Ray's short story ‘Patol Babu Filmstar', Chaudhuri weaves in more characters into “Taramandal” to carry further Patol's baton of disappointment.

Patol's aspiration to be an actor is shrunk into a cameo in a film. The desire to be a success in theatre and movies gives heartbreaks to a host of other characters belonging to different age groups and diverse milieus in Chaudhuri's play. However, Chaudhuri refrains from terming “Taramandal” tragic. “It is melancholic, not tragic,” he says, gleaning comic moments in a journey towards disillusionment.

The inspiration

“Italo Calvino called melancholy ‘sadness that has lightness',” he adds. It is this underlying emotion Chaudhuri wants ‘Taramandal' to come alive with. Patol, to Chaudhuri, is “universal in his history of disappointment”. That aspect of Patol's character aided the 29-year-old playwright, when he decided to weave a spectrum of stories from it.

“To Satyajit Ray's credit, he has created a definite character in a story that's just a matter of pages. Further, there is something common about the condition of Patol Babu. So, I thought the best way was to find this character in others. ‘Taramandal' is much more about ambition than Patol Babu,” explains Chaudhuri.

The playwright spent considerable time fleshing out characters with similar destiny. He reached Mumbai to meet casting directors, small-time actors and those who aspired for bigger, better roles. A couple of characters especially emerged from these interviews.

As someone who likes to borrow from personal histories, Chaudhuri says, the fear of “ambition left incomplete” is something he tackles constantly, being in theatre today. “It is such a struggle to be a theatre person. You are trying to avoid disappointments every day.” This is probably why Chaudhuri and his friends at Tadpole Repertory, formed last year, have to look beyond the stage. “Most of us work on other things, writing and film work.”

Chaudhuri, a postgraduate in film and television studies from England, does film programming and edits an Asian cinema website. “Theatre is my major preoccupation, and I spend a lot of time doing it. I want to work towards theatre being a career,” says the Delhi-based writer. He is not a stranger to the practical difficulties of sustaining an English theatre movement. “It is a difficult time for theatre when it comes to generating resources. In English theatre, anything slightly offbeat, not a sex comedy or Shakespeare, is difficult to sell,” he says.

Chaudhuri points out that despite a healthy culture of campus theatre in Delhi, few move towards professional theatre. “Campus theatre is an incredible presence. Yet most people graduate, move on to join films and the rest carry on with their lives,” he says.

For Chaudhuri and his colleagues, challenges may be many, but he says the most imposing one is “time”. “To work effectively in theatre demands time,” he says. He hopes to get Tadpole “to a point, through recognition and through luck, sustained by a number of projects”, so, that kind of time can be spent on it.


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Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 6:01:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/A-journey-towards-disillusionment/article16129082.ece

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