An overnight party is very common nowadays, an overnight Yatra was very common in rural areas of Bengal but an overnight drama is not very common in Kolkata. Still Kolkata is awaking for each and every show of URUBHANGAM at the Academy of Fine Arts, a drama by the Kasba Arghya. A drama of almost 6 hours duration is mainly adapted from the tragic drama by Vasa, the Sanskrit dramatist of the 2nd or the 3rd Century and directed by Manish Mitra, a veteran director of drama.
The drama is based on the story of the Mahabharata, opens at the gory site of the battle field of Kurukhestra where three lamenting women describes how carnivores are feasting on the dead bodies and how the wailing of women has broken the silence of this dead world. The Opening scene is a mixture of the opening of the Vasa and faintly recalls the three witches of Macbeth in a different way. However, this drama is a far cry from that of Vasa where Duryodhana is the tragic hero. But this drama has collected various forms of dramatic art, dance, folk tradition, song and story element and organized them artistically like the beads of a rosary and presented them all as a whole, full of entertainment and artistic pleasure and is making Kolkata awake to the essence of drama.
If you are here to know Kolkata, I will strongly suggest you see this drama. They are also having their shows in different states of India and abroad. Now why is this a must seeing?
1. This drama presents the story of the whole Mahabharata in an interesting way. “The story of Lust, Love and Power” has become a story of today. ‘Hatred’ is the only word responsible for each and every destruction that man did and this drama has strung its tune on this chord at the very first scene.
2. The narrator plays the role of Bharata (the originator of the Kuru and Pandava dynasty), Vyasa, Kunti and many more while narrating the story. It gives the narrator ample chances to showcase his acting skill. Here the narrator Tapas Chatterjee has aptly used this chance and has the capacity to catch the attention of the audience even at 3.30 am.
3. ‘Safety of Silence’—this word comes again and again very meaningfully like a refrain after Draupadi’s dishonor at the court, after Duryadhana took away the kingdom from the Pandavas and so on. Does not it hit us somewhere? Do not we take refuge to this silence very often to save ourselves at the cost of others? It is like knocking the door of our conscience.
4. The group has taken this drama as a research oriented project and learnt a lot of Indian traditional art forms and has incorporated them here—- Kathakali, Theyyam, Chhou, Jhumur, Yaksagana,Pandavani and the very own Bengali rituals of marriage and of course the Rabindranath Tagore (his songs and poems).
5. Though the drama has become a unity but a few scenes are just outstanding: Marriage, love and despair of Draupadi, Child birth of Gandhari, Elegance and cruelty of Satyavati, Inhibitions of Kunti as a virgin mother, Death of Abhimunya, The game of the dice and of course the fighting of mace between Bheem and Duryadhana.
6. An innovative inclusion is the role of Ekalavya as a Karnataki Yakksagana artist, the ‘META’ award winning Prasad Chedkadi. The caste system stricken Ekalavya wins the heart of the audience through his choreography, song and acting, though he sings and speaks his dialogues entirely in Kannada.
7. The actor, Raju Bera is jovial as the god Ganesha, tragic as a virgin mother Kunti, voluptuous as Kunti inviting Dharmaraj for an offspring, valiant as Abhimunya fighting a futile battle within the Chakrabyuha. Though perfection has no limit, but what this boy has already learnt is a thing to see and appreciate. I am a little biased also as he is an ex- student of mine.
8. Mary Acharya, a student of class X, has the true mettle of a very talented actress. Her role as Draupadi is mind-blowing and her performance as a Pandavani singer is powerful and thought-provoking.
9. Well, music is of course very good. It is the backbone of this drama. The director has taken a poetic license to come in the middle himself and to jerk the audience with the role of a Jester and points out to some very contemporary problems with reference to this drama.
10. Last cause of the because: the story of Aravan, the son of Arjuna and Ulupi, a third gender is less known. The pain and sacrifice of Aravan is really a masterpiece that this drama has rightly presented. Who knows that Keralan legend has an interesting story of Aravana or Kuttantavar; he has a temple and the Koovagam Festival re-enacts the tragic story of Aravan’s marriage and death! Dibyendu Tarafdar, a Kathakali dancer has presented the role of Aravan meaningfully.
A good news for those who are thinking ‘how impossible it is to sit and watch a drama for 6 hours!!’—there are four breaks when some performances can be seen outside the hall, when you can enjoy some delicious fish chop, egg devil and coffee, when the smoke and smell of tobacco will justify the presence of a Fire engine outside the theatre hall.
Coming out of Academy at 6 o’clock in the morning, I got the smell of rain-washed Gulancho (a white flower) and felt why Catharsis is an important part of drama : IT WASHES OUR MIND OFF MORAL IMPURITIES.