The very beginning of the play set an impressive standard to the dial of music and lighting. The audience received a rather engaging auditory welcome to the play with a dancer in classical ankle bells moving across the stage in fine Beats, with the banner of the play in hand. This was followed by a narrative which guides the audience into the setting of those times and brings forth the gist of the play which would eventually unfold on stage.
Set in the late 1860’s, the play puts forth the turmoiled life of Binodini Dasi, the courtesan turned prolific drama actress, in much symbolic details. Girish Chandra Ghosh, who gave Binodini her first real break at Calcutta’s National theatre, was portrayed magnificently on stage – his magnanimous stature evident all over all throughout the play.
Further on, the various facets of Binodini’s life comes into clear sight and the evident dilemma in her everyday’s living, the theatre and her obligations to her lover back at home. However, each time her precedence lies with the theatre and the ad hoc charm it brings to her – from Binodini Dasi to Nati Binodini, the theatre seemed to be her everything.
The shift in time frame is well moulded with fine narration to guide the audience into its envelopes. The dynamics of the Girish Chandra Ghosh’s life are also depicted henceforth, a drunken desolate concealed by his pompous image in the theatre world. The dint of tear justifiably perceivable in those eyes provides many a moment of goosebumps.
The apparently flat line of events is somewhat deceitfully drab in text and quite the opposite in the method of portrayal on stage. Especially the subtle climax of the lives of the two protagonists – the complete surrender to the divine – along the guiding lights of Lord Ramkrishna Paramhansa, wherein the play ultimately converges, ties several undone knots that evolve through the length of the play; the dichotomy of the theatre world, the plight of those from the lower rungs of the social ladder and so on and so forth.
The direction was ‘complete’ to the T. From strong angles to depict locations of varying temperament to strategic entries to maintain the unity of time, place and action, there could be no complains. The voice modulation is remarkable throughout the play from each member of the cast not allowing any moment of flat conversation.
The lighting, one of the most significant appeals of the play draws immense subconscious attention from the audience as the scenes shift in space and tempers alike. The glowing dark red of a tussle between men with rage, the drunken blue of Girish Chandra Ghosh’s study, all of it makes it a sensational visual appeal.
All in all, in what could easily be defined as an exhilarating hour and a half’s trip down amnesia lane, Nati Binodini, by Sayandeb Bhattacharya and the rest at Smarannik, stood strong as one of the most gripping plays to bestow the stage at Uttam Mancha this month and probably in an even longer time.
– Pratik Chakraborty