Monday, December 29, 2014

Raja'r Mrityu (Death of Yazdgerd) : Review of a play by SpectActors

Death of Yazdgerd written by Behram Beyzai , the reputed Iranian film director & playwright, is supposed to be a play as dear to Iranians as Death of a salesman is to the Americans. The play was written in 1979 , during the time the Shah of Iran was ousted by the Islamic revolution of Khomeini, but is set in the mid 7th century when the Persian monarchy of many centuries had been overrun by the invading Arabs & the Caliphates embarked on their reign lasting ,again, many centuries. Rajar Mrityu is the not only the first production of a Bengali translation   of Death of Yazdgerd in Kolkata but also the first production of the newly-born professional theater group , SpectActors led by Sudipto Chatterjee

On the face of it, Rajar Mrityu  has the story line of a thriller, where the mysterious murder of Yazdgerd III  is being investigated by the  head -priest, the army-general and a solider as they arrive at the miller's house where the body of the masked-king is discovered. The poverty-stricken miller has only his wife and daughter in the house and everyone is a suspect. But the story assumes interesting connotations when another layer of mystery is added regarding  the identity of the king himself since no one in the country has seen his face behind his mask. As the residents of the miller's house give their versions  of the event to the jurists; their versions get coloured by the nature of religion, the nature of ethics , rights (or the lack of them)  of women , the totalitarian nature of monarchy, the persecution of the subjects by the state & the fear of an invading force that is worrisome not only to the present rulers but also their subjects.

A thriller needs to have a tight script and Rajar Mrityu has it in all its perfection. More importantly, the translation is excellently done using a level of Bengali language that's devoid of street-language ( so common in some group-theaters of Kolkata that proudly proclaim the use of it; as if it's a shaman of the subalterns) or loquaciousness. The contextual usage of classical Bengali words appeal not only to the intellect of the viewers but also to his feelings. The sets, the props, the lighting, the music and the voice-overs mesh seamlessly with the run of the play and are neither ostentatious in their presentations nor  do they look cheap & rickety. But above all its the high-level acting  of the cast , whose articulation as well as the  movements involving the entire body make a near-perfect demonstration of  bodies and minds performing like synchronized machines. In my opinion Sudipto Chatterjee as the lead actor & director takes the cake in performances but that's not belittling in any way the excellent performances of the remaining members of the cast . A special mention surely has to be made for Soumya Sengupta.
Overall, it was a pleasure coming out a Kolkata theater watching a  play , absolutely professionally done and without carrying a feeling of a "bourgeois-guilt" that is so often the byproduct of Bengali protest-oriented theaters staged in the Academy of Art & Culture.
More power to SpectActors and their future productions but maybe its time if they could have a professional website instead of the limited facebook account. Ostentatious marketing through posters or advertisements may be inimical to SpectActor's stated culture but a nice website is a must for budget marketing in the digital space that engulfs all of us today.  

JAS rating : 8 out of 10
Note: Pictures are sourced from SpectActors's site 

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