The 3 rd Session of Theatre Adda – The Park Street Sessions, featured ‘Anusuran’, by Theatre Formation Paribartak.
‘Anusaran’, is a multiple Award-winning Bengali play by Theatre Formation Paribartak. Inspired by Godot Waits for Homeland Security written by Martin Kimeldorf.
The play takes a critical look into the question of personal freedom in age of surveillance.
More About Anusaran
A BENGALI ONE-ACT BY Theatre Formation PARIBARTAK
Inspired by the play Godot Waits for Homeland Security written by Martin Kimeldorf in 2003
Duration 45 minutes
Synopsis 2022 AD. America is in war against Syria, North Korea and Iran under the leadership of its President Arnold Schwarzenegger. But, America is itself devastated by repeated aerial bombing by Iran and North Korea. On the other hand, to prevent any opposing view, the Homeland Security Department of America is carrying out sharp surveillance on its citizens. The agents of the department, thanks to technology, now all look alike, know exactly the same things, and exchange daily experience everyday within a moment. In this situation, the department starts doubting a particular citizen and so it starts surveillance on him. Then, there starts the interrogation. After repeated meetings with the citizen, the agents themselves start to think differently. So, this citizen becomes marked as dangerous and he is then arrested. This theater shows the last few meetings between the citizen and the agents.
About Theatre Formation Paribartak
TFP is a group-theater established in 2001 and situated in Shibpur, Howrah. It produces mainly One-Act plays in Bengali and English. At present, it has about 20 one-act plays and 2 full-length plays which are all presented more or less regularly in different performance spaces in Howrah, Kolkata and in their outskirts. TFP prepares theaters for presentation in auditoriums, street-corners and intimate spaces. TFP presents its theaters in theater festivals, theater competitions, street corner programs and open arena programs. It also organizes occasionally a few shows in its own initiative. Its performers are mainly youngsters.
Most acclaimed theaters of TFP include Anusaran, Sthananko, No Exit (Sartre), Mayabari-The Grand House of Illusion (The Balcony/Jean Genet), Metamorphosis (Kafka), The Visit (Dürrenmatt), Waiting For Godot (Beckett), Ghater Katha (Tagore), Nainam Dahati Pavakah, Danawala Ekta Buro (Marquez), Kaman, Piano (Machado), Pedro Páramo (Juan Rulfo), Bandarnach etc. The renowned plays produced by TFP and listed above are inspired by their original texts and so they are actually adoptions by TFP. Under facilitation by Sri Joyraj Bhattacharjee, TFP has also produced a site-specific theater Lakkhoner Shoktishel (Sukumar Ray) and Ekti Uttar-Adhunik Samajik Pala.
TFP also organizes theater workshops for improvement of its own theater performers. Besides, it extends help to other organizations in form of writing tailor-made scripts and providing actors. It also produces tailor-made theater productions to meet the requirements of specific developmental projects
Since its inception in 2001, still now, TFP has won 22 awards in different theater competitions for its productions and for individual excellence of its team members.
Its award-winner theaters include Anusaran, No Exit, Mayabari, Metamorphosis, The Visit, Kaman, Waiting For Godot etc.
TFP prefers to avoid individual attribution to its team members. This is why no individual name has yet been associated exclusively with the name of this theater-group.
TFP has yet not opted for applying for grant from any donor agency or from any government. It finances its expenditures solely by public donations, member donations, member subscriptions and sale of tickets.
If you want to receive regular information about the shows of TFP, please like the Facebook page of TFP at http://www.facebook.com/paribartak. This is the Facebook page of Changers’ Foundation Paribartak, a sister-organization of TFP. TFP’s shows are announced here. You can also call +919830735236 (Secretary, TFP) and register yourself for TFP’s SMS Announcements.
‘Anusuran’, by Theatre Formation Paribartak, is based on “Godot Waits For Homeland Security”- which is a 2003 play written by Martin Kimeldorf of Washington, D.C., USA. This play is not a prequel or sequel of the Waiting For Godot written by Samuel Beckett. It consists of only two characters – AmbiMan and ProtoMan.
Ambiman and Protoman, though not addressed, as such, in the play itself, are allegorical figures. Ambiman- an archetypical citizen of United States of America, purportedly as democratic nation – who would like to believe that his life is subjected to the principles of liberty, freedom, equality and justice, He is also perhaps an ‘yuppie’ & representative of an immigrant, a non-native Amercian citizen. He is ambivalent – as he refuses to be the source of power (by refusing to belong to any party) and at the same time refusing to be a political subject. Protoman – a caricature of a homeland security agent, a homogenized tool and medium for the exercise of power and also of denial of power of the subjects, an antithesis to Ambiman, and is created, to circumvent democratic rights, under the guise of national emergency.
The play starts off in the immediacy of post 9/11 America, with Ambiman, after a long drive on the American super highway, seeking a glass of beer, in a restaurant/café, where once again, he meets Protoman – who (absurdly) once again, starts questioning him as a suspect. The audience is also introduced to the concept of homeland security and its objectives i.e. to secure America from the designs and purposes of terrorists. Protoman gloats over the success of an aggressive and interventionist American foreign policy, which has used military power to destroy regimes like Iraq and Libya, with the killing of ‘despots’ to make America a safer place, and the role Homeland Security, plays in ensuring the internally too, all dissenting thoughts and characteristics are to be culled and a certain homogenous nationalism ensured. Ambiman protests against this absurd invasion of privacy and questioning of his patriotism and integrity. Ambiman, is arrested at the end of the scene, on suspicion that his profile matches that of a potential terrorist – as he does not indulge in acts which normal (patriotic) people do or are expected to indulge in: like participating in a political process, indulging in consumerist orgy as fuelled by advertisement, or residing in ideological containment spheres of activism on social & environmental issues. Hence his thoughts and existence are beyond the understanding & grasps of the state which makes him a dangerous free thinker.
Ambiman’s resentment and angst inspires protest in the second scene, which critiques media and state censorship of media. Ambiman, turns into an entrepreneur, brings out his newspaper – which are basically blank pieces of (cheap) newsprint – with the reasoning that the underlying narrative and motivation of news being the same on any given day, it would probably be economical for the reader to buy a blank paper, which will continuously reflect what he wants to belief, rather than any new perspectives, which might be dangerous to the status quo and hence censored. The truth is relative to the belief of people, and commodification of news and intellectuality, has rendered any deeper insights and perspectives untenable. Protoman, once again appears to question the market logic of Ambiman’s free enterprise and he ends up buying off all copies of the newspaper, with and equally bewildering logic.
Disillusionment is the overarching theme of the third scene. USA is at war, North Korean and Iran, has attacked America, and the economy is in shambles. Promtoman visits Ambiman at his derelict house, to question him as to why he is doing nothing – why he does not have any source of income, why does he not receive or make any telephone calls – in short why he is so difficult to profile. Ambiman once again protests, stressing that he is not resentful of America, but of ultimate and unquestioned despotic power, which any system exercises in determining the lives of its citizens and destroying sovereignty. Ambiman, invites Protoman to a drink a cup of tea and play a game of chess & to come to terms with the existential truth, that there is no tea, neither are there any more chess pieces, but life to be lived by both of them – based on make beliefs and fantasies. They wait for Godot, their reverie shaken by the fighter jets, signaling the beginning of war.
The fourth scene examines the aftermath of war- a dystopia, where the two characters find themselves amongst a heap of debris and mutilated carcasses, discussing the possibilities of reviving their economic fortunes through trading of skin of the cadavers. The reference to a condom covered penis, mutilated seconds before the extinction of the natural self, alludes to the use of science as a weapon of oppression, control and destruction of the natural order, is a poignant and powerful. A broken television set, mysteriously broadcasting a news capsule from the past (post 9/11 broadcast) is a reminder of the cataclysmic causality of the current situation. In a reminder of the There is nothing much to lose now & in Protoman there is a creeping avoidance to be drawn into the war any further while Ambiman wonders where the next meal would materialize from.
The play ends with the arrest of Ambiman, on charges that he had compromised the homeland security by infecting their agents with a virus of free & radical thought. Ambiman ends the play with the assertion that it is not who is following the system, but the system which is following him.
It is a wonderful play – lucid & poetic, extremely well-acted by the duo. The tune from Dr. Zhivago by Maurice Jarre, adds to the drama and poignancy of the play. The reference to ‘Waiting for Godot’, is intended as it seeks eternal unity with the chimeric ‘Godot’ of Beckett & indeed his protagonists, lending the theme a certain timelessness. There is the allusion to the proletarian angst, caricaturized by Charlie Chaplin in ‘Gold Rush’. The reference to Arnold Schwarzenegger as the American president symbolic of a product of American popular culture & its obsession with brute power and violence, justified and internalized, as a mean to achieve domination.
The play succeeds quite clearly in delivering its central message of the invasive nature of surveillance used as a means to control and limit autochthonous thinking & the justifying hubris which permeates nationalistic fervor which demand obsequiousness from serfs to usurp identities and to merge people into an attempt of global homogenization.
A word on Theatre Formation Paribartak
The fact that art is alive and is able to maintain its creative independence & is also accessible to people, is a testimony of the immense commitment, sacrifice and passion, characteristic of theatre groups like Theatre Formation Paribartak, which has for the past 20 years, strived to create excellence in theatre. We are richer due to their work and I wish them all the very best for the coming times.