Theatre review: Mrityunjoy
16 August 2018
Nandikar Kolkata

TNN | Mar 13, 2018, 12.34 PM IST

Play: Mrityunjoy
Language: Bengali
Director: Sohini Sengupta
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cast: Saptarshi Maulik (lead), Shubhadeep Guha (music), Arghya, Ayan, Saurav, Pritam, Pritamkalyan, Sudipta, Suvadeep
Rating: 3 stars

Art imitates life, but it is also true that it gives expression to the inevitable and often inexplicable fear of death. It is through emotions and words that we try to comprehend the vague feeling of life being snuffed out of us. And art more often than not makes death seem hauntingly beautiful. But what happens when the hard-hitting realities of life is presented before you wrapped in the joys of life like music, love and friendship? You experience the exhilaration of winning over your fears. Mrityunjoy, the play, aims to do that. Death, here, is symbolic of all that you fear.

Suitably narrated through the voice of a friend, it is the story of a boy called Mrityunjoy with cerebral palsy. He conquers death at birth and lives a life not crippled by the deformity. As the play proceeds, the audience learns about the many obstacles life throws at Mrityunjoy and how he overcomes them — each time appearing a hero to the narrator. In doing so, the script veers from the everyday troubles of such a person to the bigger issues concerning communities, religions, philosophy and the country. So at one go the play is a social commentary on the evils of class structure, family feuds, peer pressure, communal disharmony — you name it.

The sensitivity of the narrator and the deep compassion that he has for his friend is evident from the very beginning. But the admiration is taken a bit too far. While the anxious acts, pangs of jealousy and moments of ecstasy that the narrator admits to make him appear like a flesh-and-blood being, Mrityunjoy — present on stage only through the narrator’s account — is not only flawless but a distant possibility. You really have to see him to believe him.

But it is his absence that is symbolic of the elusive feeling of attaining the power. The power of the invisible-yet-all-encompassing life. And it is complemented by the unique arrangement on stage. The narrator, who plays the lead, is seated at the centre surrounded by the others — all musicians — who make hope come alive through the songs at each critical point in the play. The songs are lilting with an old favourite of many — Anjan Dutt’s Khader dharer railing ta — being played. The lead actor seamlessly transforms from being the narrator to playing Mrityunjoy — especially the scene where he expresses his joy on reaching Darjeeling.

It’s a bit too long for a play that mostly has narration with song breaks. Though the lead is able to hold the audience’s attention with his easy acting, the script says nothing that hasn’t been said before. But it is said with a lot of emotion and deft voice modulation. The interactions the narrator has between him and Mrityunjoy are two sides of an argument on any given topic. While Mrityunjoy encourages optimism despite challenges, the narrator shows skepticism amid opportunities. It would have had a greater impact and allowed the listeners a free reign of their imagination had it been a shruti natok.

— DEBOLINA SEN

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Main Article: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/bengali/theatre/theatre-review-mrityunjoy/articleshow/63281527.cms

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