The first show of ‘IlaGurhoishaa’ was staged on March 6 at the Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata. The audience gave a standing ovation to a peerless stage presentation of sheer finesse, precision and high quality. Theatre Platform, Khardah, since its inception in 1992 has produced more than 30 plays before and this is the latest.
‘IlaGurhoishaa’, the latest play written by the playwright Bratya Basu, is based on the story of a king, Maharaja Bir Narayan of the ‘Koch’ dynasty of seventeenth century Bengal and Assam. It is a tragic tale of the king which reflects the destiny of his lecherousness. Basu has again shown his remarkable flair of exploring complexities and controversies from the lost pages of history, this time from the history of the ‘Koch’ tribe of Cooch Behar. He admitted to have first conceived the idea from a book, Brihat Banga written by Dinesh Chandra Sen. Dinesh Chandra claimed to know about the history from the caretaker of the palace, Joynath in 1842, who had been advised by the chief advisor of King Harendranarayan, Kalichandra Lahiri, to write down the history.
The rich legacy and empire built by Maharaja Nara Narayan who died in 1621 was enjoyed by his successors and the practice of polygamy was prevalent. It was not unusual for the kings to ignore the consent of the girls or women they were attracted to before marrying them.
The use of force in such cases was often practiced. In the narrative, Maharaja Bir Narayan got attracted to a young woman and used his shrewd tactics to propose her, knowing fully well that she was betrothed to a young disciple of her poor father. But she committed suicide soon, in the king’s palace and her lover and her teacher-father decided to take revenge of her death.
They planned a disastrous end to the life of the king. Bratya Basu has expectedly entwined his imagery prowess with the historical backdrop to create this unbelievable saga of love, violence and death featuring the psychoanalytical complexities of human desires. The king with multiple wives is unable to keep any count over his children. The story reaches its literary climax when the king becomes a victim of his own lustful desires of objectifying any female that he gets attracted to. The playwright therefore uses his literary dexterity to oscillate between the logic of the psyche to the realms of imagination and fiction, thereby adding a different manifestation to the notion of Electra complex and naming it ‘IlaGurhoishaa’.
Debasish, the director of the group, should be congratulated for pulling up another brilliant production on stage after ‘Kankra’. He admitted to having been bowled over by the play and the construction of the plot. He explained, ‘I tried to build the play frame by frame with the flicker of a Greek tragedy the way the playwright has penned the progress of the irreversible catastrophe.’
The treatment used in the direction of the play was similar to that of a Greek tragedy in theatre. The use of masks to create eerie and mystic effects was appropriate to generate the perfect feel of a tragic thriller. Some gruesome moments of killings of vengeance were performed intricately.
The highlights of the production included the minimalistic use of props and sharply focused lights synchronised with digital background music and live music by Shuvodeep Guha. The detailed and technically strong sword-fight sequences with special effects pushed the audience to the edge of their seats. Tapan Das, the man behind the martial arts training, deserves a salute for making it possible on stage. The success of the action scenes reflects the professionalism of the actors and their relentless practice.
The sharpness and strength of the script had a perfect resonance with the theatrical production. Goutam Haldar won the hearts of the audience by his aura and mannerism. The amazing combination of shrewdness and vulnerability, aggression and softness in the character drawn by the playwright was magnificently performed by this actor of great callibre. Senjhuti Mukherjee’s performance helped the play reach the height it did. Equally mesmerising was the level of performance of the new-comer Sumit Kumar Roy. He was the repository of tremendous energy and physical fitness on stage.