We kick off our new series called Over a Cuppa at Cafe Toto, 30 E, Gobindo Auddy Road (Chetla), Kolkata on July 29, 2017 from 7 pm.

Inspired by the Cafe Theatre movement in France, this is Kolkataś own Cafe Theatre movement will include performances in theatre, spoken words & poetry. We hope that these sessions would be informative about history, culture and at the same entertaining. We seek to provoke and hence initiate a discourse on new aesthetics & culture.

If you wish to host a Over a Cuppa event at your coffee shop, kindly drop us an email to sudipta@culturemonks.in

We start  with a play called  Dwoirath ( en: The Duel). This is play written by Badal Sircar who adapted it from an American play.

Badal Sircar who was one of the most important contemporary playwrights in India and the founder of the ´intimate theatre’ movement in Bengal, which in its intent is similar to Growtowskiś ´theatre of the poor´, though in form its is more verbose, accessible, using traditional India folk theatre traditions as its primary influence and  and less physical than its European counterpart.

We also look here at some similarities in the plot with Michel Foucaultś book , Discipline & Punish.

Dwoirath (The Duel)

¨there are so many cages, so many small theatres, in which each actor is alone, perfectly individualized and constantly visible¨

Written by: Badal Sarkar
Direction and production: Prosthan
Cast: Rito Deep & Bibhas Mukherjee
Duration: 45 mins
Language: Bengali

Badal Sircar

The two act play is between the characters – Gyan ( knowledge) & Manush (man). The play is the dialectical discourse between knowledge (Gyan) as one of pillars of the mechanism of power, or itself the source of  power  which flows through institutions interacts with the subject (Manush) to create new knowledge with the aim of  of maintaining its hegemony  to achieve purposes which serves the ends of power.


Enacted and directed by the theater  group Prasthaan and directed by Ritodeep who also plays the role of Ǵyan in this play.  Ritodeep is a teacher by profession and theatre is his passion. He likes to explore various aspects of gender and society through performance. It is intriguing that Prasthaanś current productions (Dwoirath by Badal Sircar and Lesson by Eugene Ionesco) deal with theme of education – knowledge formation and the mechanism of dissemination also its relationship with power.  This interpretation of Dwoirath has emerged through a process of workshop with visual artists, writers & artisans over a period of the past 2 years.

“….power produces knowledge (and not simply by encouraging it because it serves power or by applying it because it is useful); that power & knowledge directly imply one another; that there is no power relation without the co -relative constitution of a field of knowledge, not any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations. These ṕower – knowledge relations´ are to be analyzed, therefore, not on the basis of a subject of knowledge who is or is not free in relation to the power system, but, on the contrary, the subject who knows, the objects to be known and the modalities of knowledge must be regarded as so many effects of these fundamental implications of power – knowledge and their historical transformations. In short, it is not the activity of the subject of knowledge that produces a corpus of knowledge, useful or resistant to power, but power – knowledge, the processes and struggles that traverse it and of which it is made up, that determines the forms and possible domains of knowledge.¨ – Michel Foucault

Dwoirath is a symbolic representation of the constant duel between knowledge (Gyan ) as a power tactics and the subject & object of knowledge (Manab).

The play starts with Manab in isolation in a complete darkness maybe in a dungeon or prison, intensely reflective. Gyan enters, dressed effeminately in a red & silver costume, with a pocket of card, signifying his higher rank or maybe even the ḱingś body´. He is the ardh – narishwara and throughout the play Gyan brings into performance the presence of a trans gender identity, maybe even an eunuch. He symbolizes the unity forged out of multiplicity – the agent of the NIRGUNA – the eternal all-pervading and omnipresent divine consciousness, maybe even reminiscent of Krishna in a Tamasha.

He wants light (optics), more transparency, visibility , but a well calibrated balance between light and darkness to suit his objectives. For ¨visibility is a trap¨ in a Panopticon, hence ŕeversing´ the ´principles´ of a dungeon.

Manab in sack cloth significant of his place in the lowermost rank. He is the void – the empty vessel thirsty for knowledge. He is the Arjuna in Kuruskshetra. Manab is the other in the social order – the marginalized, the subaltern. One can infer that Manab has been a very bad student. Manush prays for deliverance from this darkness, he wants to know about the scriptures, philosophy, science, literature. Gyan insults Manab for his lack of comprehension, retention and embodiment of knowledge and starts filling him with lessons in planetary positions, science, literature, etc. Gyan  makes Manab aware of the limits of his cell, he taunts him to try to break the wall, feel its impregnability and to give up hoping for an escape. Knowledge is useless without the subjugation and complete penetration of Manab through a mechanism of discipline and the fear of punishment or retribution. Manab must be individualized, alienated to be completely under Gyanś spell. Moreover it must circumscribes the boundaries of thoughts within the confines of its productive use.

Manush revolts, he says ¨i don´t want your knowledge¨. ¨youŕe not my teacher¨. he tries to kick the walls down, threatens to burn the ćards’ of knowledge. Manab tells Gyan that he heard voices warning him not to trust Gyanś words. Gyan is furious, denies that these voices exists in real and then goes on to accuse these voices of belonging to some external agencies (traitors, CIA….). Manab insists that there is path leading out of the cell, which Gyan denies. Manab calls Gyan a liar. Gyan says ´it doesn´t matter if í´ve told you the truth or if i´ve lied ; what matters is discipline.¨ Once again this is very reminiscent of Michel Focaultś proclamation that ¨the individual is ….. the fictitious atom of an ´ideological´ representation of the society; but he is also a reality fabricated by this specific technology of power .. called discipline.¨ Gyan says ¨everything is a lie, discipline is a lie, purposiveness is a lie, a rock steady vision is a lie, if you don´t get this, you will achieve nothing.¨ But Manab asks for phenomenological proof. Manab is adamant – for he finds life intolerable within the narrow confines of Gyanś world, he is sure that there exists a world outside which is beckoning him, a world of open fields, sparkling sun, glittering moon, wafting breeze and clear skies. He has imagines a world beyond Gyanś , where people śing, laugh, dance´. He has no proof either of this world but he believes that it exists. Now its time for Gyan to call him a ĺiar´. Manab posits that Gyan also could experience this world if he mediates. Gyan agrees, but his visualization is deterministic, he superimposes his ´romantic´ imaginaries of a world of fruit orchards, fields measured in ´bighas´, over Manabś antique and natural visualizations. Exasperated, Manab pours water over Gyan, which infuriates him.

Dwoirath is also symbolic of the process through which knowledge  is produced. Gyan symbolizes the body through which this power flows. He is constantly calibrating his mechanisms based on Manushś reactions and perspectives, to keep him from abandoning his part in this project of subjugation and domination. Manushś position is objectified is alienated or is not aware of his role in the production of knowledge, ¨he is seen, but he does not see: he is the object information, never a subject in communication.¨ He is separated & individualized, as if he is in detention.

Gyan tries to deceives Manab pretending to be a friend and agreeing to show him the path to the world which he has been dreaming, but Manab soon realizes the deceit and proclaims Gyan as his ¨ enemy for life, whose end is necessary for his liberation.¨ He picks up arms to kill Gyan.  Gyan tries to pacify him by recounting the story of a mouse and a man, who loved each other very much. One day the the man couldn´t find this mouse, upset, he breaks down all the furnitures and objects in the room to find the mouse,  but he stops at smashing a picture of the ḿouse’ which hangs on the wall. Incidentally the mouse was caught inside that picture frame and died of hunger. Manab is petrified and stops.

Manab now thinks of a ploy . He realizes that there is an opening – an escape not through the walls but through Gyan. he says ¨ Gyan, although you are my life enemy, but still i love you¨. He tells Gyan about the possibilities of an opening and just that to see it one has to assume abnormal proportion, i.e. stoop down and crawl as a child,  to see and go through this opening. Once more can this be the instance of the ´descending´ individualization where when one wishes to individualize the healthy, normal and law – abiding adult, it is always by asking him how much of the child he has in him¨.

Gyan realizes that Manab is slipping away from his grip. He conjures up the bogey of nationalism to evoke a sense of unity. He invents a common external threat and moulds Manab into a disciplined solider, for as Guibert would say ¨Discipline must be made national.. Time which destroys all, will increase its power¨ and that the army was useful more in maintaining peace thorough the projection of its brutal power in war times. Manab consents, he fights the war, but during it he forewarns Gyan ¨ you will not die in war, but in my hands.¨

Manab is true to his word and in what could be construed as a civil uprising, Manab challenges Gyan to a duel. Gyan, tries to fill Manab with the fear of retribution by law, of guilt consciousness that he would repent throughout his life, Manab kills Gyan. Gyan final attempt at maintaining the continuity of his apparatus of domination over the śocial body´ is in his dying words, calling Manabś rebellion an act of ´delinquency´for which he must be remorseful, hence denying him an moral escape. The revolution is heroic in which Manush realizes his power to break free from his self doubt by destroying the edifice of Gyan. The continuity of the caste order is disrupted, the sanctity and hierarchy of the epic has been degraded. The epoch of a new epic has begun, or has it ?

But then Gyan is not dead, just like he had claimed ¨knowledge is all pervading & omnipresent – the ultimate Brahmin¨, its power eternal in the modern world, and once more he tries to entice Manab to live with him in the ´other world´, the ´after life´. Manab is curious and asks him ¨What lies in the otherworld¨.  Gyan says ¨ A room, bigger, darker & more ……….¨

The duel continues …..

Manab & Gyan continue to be the actors in the Panopticon – ´visible and unverifiable´.

Sudipta Dawn

Full script of the play is here : Dwairath


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Please do also come to our special commemorative performance on Badal Sircar at Alliance francaise du Bengale, Park Street on August 1, 2017. Click here for information.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s