He was supposedly the first to pull off a Brecht on the stage of Bengal. Nobody said a thing. Nobody cared to remember. He was supposedly the first to do an Arthur Miller here as well. Once again, nobody said or remembers anything about it. He was also the pioneer of Kimitivadi plays here; that, too, faded away from the minds of the public. Then he did Barbadhu, based on a Subodh Ghosh tale. That was when people got vocal on him. They remembered him. And they ostracised him.
You know who I am talking about. In our production, he goes by the name Amiya Chakraborty. Ujjwal Chattopadhyay wrote the play based on a Shyamal Gangopadhyay novel. Produced by Paikpara Indraranga, the play will be enacted every Sunday at Tala Park, close to his residence in Northern Avenue.
He dared to bypass the concepts of theme and language. Theatre was synonymous to business for him. He had a dream — like many others had — to explore that deserted island that goes by the name of ‘theatre’; and he ended up discovering a cove of treasure, just like Columbus.
The researcher may ask you whether you can name a movie that will run a packed house at Grace as well as in New Empire and Nandan. Or, since we are discussing theatre, whether we can name a production that will ensure a full house at Tapan Theatre, Academy as well as Bijon Theatre? You possibly cannot. And yet, Barbadhu managed to do precisely that.
Barbadhu ran a full house at Pratap Mancha as well as in Kala Mandir and Academy. It was not about a night or two: even if we ignore Pratap Mancha, every show at both Kala Mandir and Academy had a full turnaround. Why?
Barbadhu ran for one thousand eight hundred nights. An approximate count of two million people has seen the play. The researcher is aware that people would mention vulgarity and the “blow-hot-blow-hottest” advertisements as the reason for the success of Barbadhu. However, there were several plays running simultaneously in the city — ones that involved more sexuality, even cabarets. None of these could even reach half the popularity of Barbadhu. The researcher has concluded his book with the words: “Is it not time for us to turn back and introspect? Is it fair to shun Ashim Chakraborty just because he dared to do Barbadhu? Were advertisements the only reason for the play running 1,800 nights on the trot? Or was there something deeper? Does this not merit neutral, impersonal research?”
Our researcher goes by the name of Ashim Samanta. He has penned down A Word or Two About Ashim Chakraborty, a Man of Stage. Mr Samanta informs us that it was Ashim Chakraborty who had introduced Dostoyevsky to Bengali theatre. He visualised a Bengalis stage version of Albert Camus’ Caligula. Shyamal Ghosh wrote of Ashim Chakraborty: “There was hardly a topic Ashim had not mastered. He was well-read on anything under the sun. He was as voracious a reader anyone: whenever a play by Tennessee Williams or a Neil Simon came out in the USA, or a Camus or Jean-Paul Sartre released in France, Ashim made sure he read it within a week.”
Thus, to steal a line of Poet Tushar Roy from the play, we can say: “Rummage through my ashes. Check whether my plays were honest or not.”