Tuesday, May 26, 2015

FM মহানগর - Review of a play by StoryTeller

Typically a “reputed” drama staged in Kolkata fall within three limited genres. Period Drama & Greek Tragedies; Folklore  and ‘relevant’ Social Drama. Even the last genre when it picks up  contemporary social theme like ‘Old age homes’ tend to pick more on the breakdown of family relationships & subsequent suffering without  so much as an acknowledgement that  good old age homes that serve a social purpose exist and are redefining family relationships. The old saga of protest and rebellion play out their various expressions generally in most of the plays often  ending with a strong message to change the society without realizing that the society has been changing and has changed so much since last 2 decades  with advances in communication and overindulgent consumerism that messages are broadcast & shared eons before they are staged. If one is a viewer like me, who has been waiting for years for a play that captures the utter senselessness of all that is considered important and also demonstrates  how relationships are modified , almost instantly-gratified, by the mascots of embedded materialism; then one can feel sufficiently redeemed by watching Story Teller’s new production, FM Mahanaogor .

The script written by IIT-IIM alumnus Arindam Mukherjee, a thespian of more than 3 decades;  can be undeservingly criticized as  garrulous but it is  so tightly woven and smartly at that , that the viewer not only does not ever feel bored but also pays that extra bit of attention  to capture all the dialogues before they kind of, fleet  away.   Based at a FM station, the play is woven around a talk show that has popularized itself for  ridiculing any ideology or idea (whether its a live-suicide or a vault-lock-in)  floated  in by such callers as solutions for the problems arising from  lonely existences of human souls.  The play builds up quickly, knitted as it is over  a series of such phone calls and is steadily taken to a  dramatic climax, full of suspense & possibilities,  that questions the trust (or the complete lack of it)  in a society that is otherwise so full of uncertainty that “hope” becomes the easiest marketing-gimmick to ride piggy-back on.
The play runs without a break for 97 minutes and at the end of it one keeps one’s fragile morality safe and possibly goes home with a broader acceptance of all meaningless-relationships that metamorphose & mutate all the time .
The production is simple, with a backdrop of a FM studio and the props give an impression of careful selection but it possibly was a challenge to light up the black sketch (of a city skyline that pales into an abstract metaphor of uncertainty in one corner) on a translucent surface. Maybe OLEDs would’ve done the trick.  The lighting at times seemed to struggle to come upto  the pace of the script but once zoned in, it gave a soft, pleasing effect. The music should have been more widely used but in the few rare instances it was used, it sounded soulful , static-free. The acting was near flawless with the performance of the protagonist, the young talk-show host played by Anirban , the winning card.
Overall a must-watch play for viewers not necessarily looking for messages on sadly-produced stages and definitely  a must-watch for young members of the digital generation as a benchmark-play that offers perspectives of  morphed relationships in the technological times of today.
JAS Rating : 8 out of 10
     Declaration:The current viewing on 25th May’2015 was on invitation only and the play goes on 
             stage on (and from) 14th June, 2015 at Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata. 

1 comment:

JAS said...

The audience reaction after the first commercial screening was mixed. While in general male audiences liked the plot-less experimental theme of the play, the female audiences thought that a plot is essential for going to a drama & for spending 2 hours of meaningful evening-time.
A few lauded the brilliant individual performances but rued the fact that the play failed to touch the emotional chord of the audience; possibly again for the lack of a dramatic plot. "Mistrust in society" as a theme failed to rouse their Indian sensibilities, maybe embedded as they are in a society where traditional value systems are breaking down.
In short, experimental theaters in Kolkata using professional artists will have to create a critical mass of new audience, if they want to sustain their cost of production & attract incoming audience.