“Abayab” by Behala Batayan, whose project began long back in 2014, is a play that questions whether we are living the right kind of life. Written ten years ago by the noteworthy director Kamaleshwar Mukherjee, the play deals with the age old conflict that a man has to face while making his choices in life: Passion or Obligation? Family or Ambition?  Often these small decisions in our life make path breaking differences and make us what we become in future. Directed by Naba Kumar Banerjee, it stars Shaheb Bhattacharya, Sohini Sarkar, Srideep Chatterjee, Avijit Lahiri and Priyanka Mondal.

The plot of the story revolves around two characters, coming from  decent middle class backgrounds: Shaunak and Anubha. It deals with two phases of their lives and the transformation they go through in the process.  This in turn questions the two significant choices we are faced with: Is family for which we are often compelled to put aside our dreams and aspirations greater than ambition? Or is it the vice versa?

Shaheb Bhattacharya is playing the role of Shaunak, male lead character. As we chatted, we found out that this is his debut acting on stage and that coming from a line of TV serials and cinemas, he was previously pushed away from theatre by other groups whose identity he chose not to reveal. His previous experience in film acting was an added advantage as he was not aware of the clichéd acting methods of theatre and thus had a thought process that differed from the conventional theatrics. The most challenging part of the play that he found appealing was the judgement of who is right, in judging and choosing between family and aspiration. He further said that he had to constantly keep in his mind the neutrality of the dramatic situation and had to always remember not to portray his character in such a way that it appears to be biased. Another interesting aspect of the play and his character in particular is the portrayal of two different character trends of the same person, at two different junctures of life. Both the youth and middle age of Shaunak’s life will be played by Saheb and thus becoming those characters and becoming them convincingly within such a short time appeared as a challenge to him.

Anubha’s character is being played by Sohini Sarkar. Her reaction however is not the same. She has been a theatre actor for a long time but had never been very into it.  Coming from Kharda, she has previously worked with groups like Kharij, Chetana: where she worked under Aninda Pulak, and played roles of Shailabala from Tagore’s “Chirakumar Sabha” and Kumudini from “Jogajog” by the same author. In 2014 while she didn’t have any prior commitments, she was contacted by Saheb and asked if she was interested. After reading the script, she readily agreed. On being asked what she liked the most in the character, she said she agreed to play the character because it struck her to be important. She prepared herself by trying to understand the trivialities and the way of life Anubha wants to live.

“How can a person who has no feeling, love? Are they humans at all, or are they all wrong?”

As a preparatory measure, all the actors of the play, went through rigorous workshops for several months. Naba Kumar Banerjee, who is the director of the play, sat from 6 to 9, perfecting them. Sometimes Kamaleshwar Mukherjee himself would drop by to see how the play was going about. Naba Kumar Banerjee, whom everyone refers to as “Naba da”, is a terrific actor himself. As we asked him his experiences after reviving the play written ten years before, he said that the matter of the play is something that shall never get old. It is an age old conflict and is ever-existing. He further told us, Kamaleshwar Mukherjee had doubts about doing this play as it is both tough and acting based. However Naba Kumar Banerjee was always convinced and wanted to do it. He concluded that a director requires actors to express what the writer has written and this concerned, all the actors, including Shaheb and Sohini have been very very dedicated. He agrees that there is a lot of repetition in “Abayab”. His way of interpreting the play is very interesting. He says the story is about two people, coming from common backgrounds, falling in love, who do not want to burden themselves with the uncertainty of the future. Rather they are very much interested with the present.  Moreover the play questions the way of life we are living, the daily humdrums of the city, the trivial plights of a common man, are these the only things that concern a man’s life? How can a person who has no feeling love? Are they humans at all or are they all wrong? These are the questions the play tries to answer.

“Movies are my bread and butter, and theatre is my pudding”

– Shaheb Bhattacharjee

Both the leads confirmed that they derived a greater happiness from theatre. Though Sohini has been a part of theatre for a long time, she is looking forward to working in theatrical groups in a professional manner in the near future. Sohini maintains that the space on the stage is what affects the deliverance of dialogues and the body language involved in the acting. Shaheb on the other hand, though a debut, said “Movies are my bread and butter, and theatre is my pudding”. Theatre for him has become an area of practice and a discipline that has made him into a better human being and a better actor. Also the immediate reaction from the audience gives them a greater satisfaction. Acting in a serial or movie and acting on stage is completely different after-all.

With a dedicated cast and crew, and veterans involved, the final show seems promising indeed. All that is left is for you to join us on the 30th in Madhusudan Manch at 6:30 pm.

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