Behala Batayan’s Abayab was staged on 30th October at Madhusudhan Mancha, Dhakuria. An interesting play, it dealt with the question of artistic creativity and ambition as parallel to a family and economy driven lifestyle, along with the quest to find out the meaning of existence. It also tried to chart the journey of two people in love – the transformation from a young couple who are head over heels for each other into a married couple who are disillusioned with one another and can barely stand the sight of each other. It wouldn’t be too long a shot to assume that the play borrowed heavily from Ibsen’s When We Dead Awaken and Strindberg’s A Dream Play. It combines the ideas of artistic failure, the relation between the artist and his art, as well as that between the artist and the muse, the parallels between imagination, art and life, the monotony of repetition as the ultimate suffering, and finally, the concept of subtle breaks in the fourth wall, to create a maelstrom of thoughts and abstractions.
The plot involved a story within a story – the main character and everyone he interacts with are characters in a story, being narrated to us by its author. The story follows the life of the character, Shaunak, who is an aspiring musician. His love interest, Anubha, has very different ambitions – she is preparing for the civil service exams and lead a comfortable life, which might be boring but is safe. The play makes use of the instrument of flashbacks and flashforwards beautifully, in order to show the contrast between the beginning of their relationship and its eventual disintegration post-marriage. As a young couple, they are very much in love, despite their vastly different temperaments and ambitions.
However, as they grow older, it becomes more and more difficult for them to accommodate each other, and their differences begin to create conflicts. This is coupled with mutual frustration. Shounak, is frustrated because of his constant failure to make it in the music scene, along with the internal conflict that he faces regarding whether he should place familial obligations before his ambitions and passions. He takes to blaming Anubha for all of his insecurities, frustrations and failures. Anubha, on the other hand, is equally frustrated because of the sacrifices she has had to make to support Shounak leading to her having to forego her own aspirations. The fact that Shounak does not appreciate her sacrifices further adds to her frustration, along with the fact that Shounak is barely ever there for her as her husband and as a family. The play follows this process of disillusionment.
Finally, Shounak lands a job in Mumbai at the same time that Anubha becomes pregnant. Anubha is happy for him and expects him to be overjoyed at the prospect of a child as well, but instead, he places his creative ambitions before his family, declares that he does not want a child, abandons Anubha and moves to Mumbai. We see that Anubha often tries to contact him but he never responds to her calls. The audience is left to surmise what becomes of the child. The entire plot is a revealed by a combination of the story being read out by the author, and it being enacted. An interesting character who would make an appearance is an artist, who once drew people in a way that the portraits revealed their true self. He is a nameless figure who seems to slip on and off the stage, almost as though he were a part of Shounak’s consciousness – indeed, it is through him that Shounak seems to have any and all dialogues with himself.
The play is a beautiful tapestry of ideas and emotions, brought further to light by impeccable acting, clever use of dramatic techniques, and wonderful set design, lighting and sounds.
Set designing was near perfect and indeed succeeded in further potrayal of what the play wanted to . Set was designed to look the house of Shaunak and Anubha , decorated with their love and warmth. The set up pretty much looked like a middle class household but did indicate the love for artistry and creativity of the people living. From having a rare painting on the wall to an antique gramophone and flower vase in such a household it was evident that the middle class dewellers understood the value of artists and creation. Also the lighting was seamless , the way how half the stage was in complete darkness to allow actors to leave and enter while the other half had perfect limelights on the protagonist at that point was well appreciated by the audience. Also the direction needs to appreciated how the actors were all well versed and confident.
After show interaction with the audience revealed that sounds were not very clear for those who were sitting towards the end of the theatre and also not very audible.
Even after the show ended in a way that it left it to the audience to think of what happened after ; the people watching it were enthralled and full of praises for the entire team.
- Shataparni and Soumi