Manipuri adaptation of Dakghar rivets Dhaka audience
The 1st Dhaka International Theatre Festival ended on May 30 through the staging of Rabindranath Tagore's “Dakghar”. Kalakshetra Manipur, a theatre troupe from the Indian state of Manipur, staged the play at the National Theatre Hall, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy.
Department of Drama and Dramatics, Jahangirnagar University, staged an adaptation of Tagore's “Tota Kahini” on the same day at the Experimental Theatre Hall.
The Bangladesh Centre of International Theatre Institute (ITI), with the support of Ministry of Cultural Affairs and Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, arranged the ten-day festival. The festival featured 25 plays, including five from overseas.
“Dakghar” achieved appreciation both in the east and west just after it was written by the Nobel laureate poet in 1912. W.B. Yeats produced an English version of the play. Juan Ramón Jiménez translated it into Spanish. “Dakghar” was translated into French by André Gide and read on the radio the night before Paris fell to the Nazis during World War II; a Polish version was performed under the supervision of Janusz Korczak in the Warsaw ghetto.
The storyline is seemingly simple, with a rather strong, mature undercurrent. It is full of narratives, which at times get very imaginative.
The protagonist of the play, a young boy, Amol, is condemned to seclusion and immobility because of his illness. He makes up a world for himself, through his imagination and insatiable curiosity, as people passing by his window link the outside world to him. When a new post office opens in the village, Amol believes the King will send him a letter, promising that his royal physician will come to cure him.
Amol represents every individual whose soul has received the call of the open road. He seeks freedom from the rigid walls of prudence erected by the society.
Padma Shri Heisnam Kanhailal, chief of Kalakshetra, has directed the play. Though it was mainly in Manipuri, some Bangla dialogue throughout the play made it a multi-lingual production.
The highlight of the play was Heisnam Sabitri (wife of Kanhailal), a thespian in her 60s, donning the role of Amol. The veteran actress was so engaging and engrossed in her portrayal that the casting didn't seem odd even for a moment. Aptly designed set defined Amol's world in the middle of the stage through a circle.
Manipuri dance and singing added further dimensions to the production,.
Among others, Ahanthem Upendra, Swapam Brojen, Dhananjay Rabha, Gugu Koken and Bidyutjit Chakraborty played different roles.
“Tota Kahini” was directed by Dr. Yusuf Hassan. The play is a satire of the conventional education system, depicted through the symbolic story of training a parrot to speak.
The ten-day festival that started on May 21 featured several Tagore plays. Two Indian troupes and Theatre, Theatre Art Unit, Palakar and Anushilan (of Bangladesh) staged adaptations of the Nobel laureate poet's works.
The 2nd Dhaka International Theatre Festival will be held in 2013; the organisers promise that it will be more colourful and diverse.