The 2nd Session of Theatre Adda – The Park Street Sessions, featured a talk on intimate theatre & spaces by Shukatara Lal , followed by a creative storytelling piece- Katha – Koli : Othernes of Being by Oglam Bally.
Shuktara Lal, who herself is an accomplished theatre actress and director, delivered a lecture which initiate the audience into intimate theatre. The talk was quite interactive, with the audience chipping in with their responses and opinion on intimate theatre vis a vis proscenium theatre. Shuktara stressed the need to develop & encourage both forms of theatre in Calcutta. She further started a discourse on intimate theatre spaces, with the hope that more such spaces would be available in the city to stage experimental and pathbreaking works.
The centerpiece of the evening was Katha Koli : Otherness of Being by Oglam Bally. Directed by Janrdhan Ghosh, the cast included Bidyapati Chakroborty, Moubani Das. The technical team comprised of Debkumar Paul & Narendra Nath Dutta.
Janardhan Ghosh (Director) on Story Telling and Katha -Koli : Otherness of Being
Storytelling is as old as our kitchen fires. The experience of sharing events in narrative form by the elders is probably as old as consciousness itself. Gathered heads of our early ancestors, bonded by their common struggle, anxiety, fears, belief, happiness and accomplishments gave voice to their expression through stories— and thus “helped make for themselves a magic defence against the trials of life”. Through time, the forms of stories have changed and have defined each teller’s history and identity—part of the creative impulse that made men and women consciously human. Stories don’t preach rather they present; the values nurtured by the story teller seep into the story. However, the values expressed through modern stories become more difficult to decipher. The world of words has shrunk now. The modern context of sub-language, anti-language and para-language has generated strange complexities in the art of storytelling.
Katha-Koli (Word-bud) is a beginning of a new-age storytelling; a new way to generate sensual impressions that deliver the meaning of actions, events and thoughts bound in written-words. It is believed that a story is best understood when it is carried by pitch, cadence, tempo, rhythm, and aural arrangement of its sentences. Therefore, in “Katha-koli” the story teller reads the written words. Further to the reading, he adds music, video and choreography to theatricalize the scenes; it is not a mere technical necessity, and still less a shortcoming. He tries to achieve the feeling of depth hidden in the story by enacting few scenes and have left the rest for the audience to infer. The stories range from grand mythical tales to contemporary, subtle, oblique narratives. The first story in the series is “The Otherness of Being”; Written by Janardan Ghosh.
The Otherness of Being is a simple love story. The boy and a girl, with no specific name, no definite place to define their location, no structured approach, get into a relationship. They meet, talk, argue, fight, make love and create a sense of verisimilitude and immediacy. Suddenly, the boy realizes that his ‘being’ misses the ‘Spark’ of life that the girl has. He wants that ‘Spark’. He tries to imitate the girl in all possible ways, but proves futile. The traditional Gauḍīya method of Rāgānugā Bhakti Sādhana is explored by the couple to achieve that “Rādhā” like ‘spark’. The boy fails—like ‘Kṛṣṇa’. Finally, the girl invents a method to transfer that ‘Spark’. Does it work? The human experience of love is distorted with rich, ambivalent and complex feelings of the characters.
“They speak, therefore they are; we overhear, therefore we believe”. To enhance our belief and expand the scope of images narrated in the story, video and music is added. The slide show is a parallel narrative, trying to paint the psyche of the story. The Story “The Otherness of Being” is read by Janardan Ghosh. Bidyapati and Moubani enact the characters. Debkumar Paul has designed the music and the dance compositions. Som has helped with the slide presentation. The overall concept has been designed by Janardan Ghosh. Assisted by Narendra. Curated by Sudipta Dawn.
Katha Koli allows several authors a stage to collaborate with performing artists, video artists, musicians, visual artists,as accomplices or even perhaps counterpoints to their stories.
Otherness of Being, being the story told in this edition. With video projections of a melange of images and English & Sanskrit texts, as a backdrop, and music – jazz & electronic creating a surreal sound scape, hence dispersing the audience into several idioms of time and space. It is the story of a man told more from a male perspective, dealing with the masculine perception of the feminine, in love with the feminine, traversing a distance to effeminates.
A report by a member of the audience
Hush, let silence seep into you, allow the spark to awaken, be in touch with your Shiddha Roopa, the quintessential being in oneself. This state will open your eyes to The Otherness of Being, a story written and read by Janardan Ghosh. With great perspicacity and sensitivity the author and storyteller explores the experiential truth about the twin persona of any person; harking on the age old concept of the ‘Ardhnarishwar’ held sacrosanct in the Hindu way of life, or the ‘Yin and Yan’ of the Chinese philosophy.
The story explores the inward journey of every man alive who reaches into the recess of his mind to seek the harmony between the feminine and the masculine that resides in everyone as a complementing and at the same time opposing forces. This complex theme finds poignant portrayal in the nameless characters played by Bidyapati and Moubani, who spring out from the written pages in an interesting cameo role and the drama inherent in the story, is further heightened by the background music and video display that has been designed into the fabric of the presentation. The novel form creates a chiaroscuro of images in the receptive imagination of the audience, enabling it to not just appreciate, but live the experience that the author has with dexterous fluidity of motion and lyricism depicted in his story.
The story runs thus-Bidyapati falls in love with Moubani , in whom he sees the spark that he sorely misses in himself. These two characters have no specific name, no specific place or space to define their locale and this device gives expression to the identity crisis that is a recurrent sub- theme that like a fine thread is interwoven with the main idea of attaining Siddha Purusha, the culmination. As his love for Moubani, the ever elusive yet so real a woman, deepens, he desires to attain the spark which is the quintessence of her being; eventually it escalates to frenzy even as their love transports them to a transcendental plane where the union of body and soul is the only possible outcome.
The language is rich in imagery with a judicious sprinkling of similes and metaphors. This is further offset by the symbolic images used in the video. Graceful figures of man and woman in silhouette or in subtle shades of dark and light seen separately or in a tight embrace, tantalizing eyes, full breasts, and water as droplets, tears or a big mass and flowers are recurrent imageries, in the foreground of which we see the almost poetic acting by Vidyapati, a veteran actor and the innocent faced Moubani, in her debut role enact snatches of the story. Integrated in all three facets of the show, reading, acting, and the video collage was a high sense of rhythm that, at times flowed from one to the other and sometimes merged to create an exquisite fluidity moving in sync or in different directions, yet united in essence.
The world society is on strife. Revolution is in the air. Poets, writers of all shades and colour; Kafka, that the girl likes to read, Nayantara Shegal, Mandakranta Sen have signed up to register their protest against the evil of oppression, political exploitation; on more intimate lines the hero, evolving from a archetypal man to the effervescent woman is in itself a revolution happening on deeply psychological and spiritual plane. How the lovers caught in an intensely passionate experience with their bodies meeting, pulsating and intertwining, rippling and dancing of the taut muscle; their faces a study of deeply and intensely felt of emotional changes that grip them in their ethereal journey of self discovery, has been reflected by the pitch, cadence, tempo and rhythm of written words.
The boy seeks to realize the Siddha Roopa and the girl, already imbued with it helps him to achieve. This remarkable erotic display of transcendental experience is so much like the tango being danced in the background to a soulful song sung by Diana Krall .The smooth motion of the dancers twisting and turning in a rhythm, soul searchingly involved faces also show the fluidity of life.
One is reminded of Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author, a theatre of theatres showcase the creations of Pirandello accusing him of ignoring them. Mr. Janardan Ghosh has used this interesting theatricality of stepping into the story he is narrating by dancing with the woman of any man’s dream. He calls it taking a break though it functions as creating an effect of magic realism, where a character can interact with the writer as a natural event. It is hereafter that the climax is reached where the mother and wife having given birth to a baby girl, takes her life in a symbolic act to liberate her husband from the throes of not being able to find the spark in him, makes a sacrifice by cutting her wrist and dying. With this the feminine in the man awakens and in consequence the spark appears in his eyes. Now he can be the mother and father to the baby girl.
Storytelling is a means for sharing and interpreting experiences and is universal in that it can bridge cultural, linguistic, and age-related divides. This form of literature has been used to its fullest to which, the story teller adds music, video and choreography for effect. He has expertly handled all these varied elements to make the experience of listening, a composite whole.
We look forward to more such productions.
Theatre Adda – The Park Street Sessions are held on the 2nd Friday of every month at The Alliance Francaise du Bengale. Park Mansions, Park Street. This is an space for contemporary, experimental theater & performance art of the intimate kind.
Katha – Koli : Otherness of Being, is quintessentially the type of work we would’ve and would like to host & we are very privileged and thankful to Janardhan Ghosh, for launching his extremely well researched and path breaking piece of work. We were extremely delighted to see the number of people who turned up for the show, in spite being the evening of Bhai Phota. The hall was filled to its brim, and the audience, largely uninitiated to the ways of intimate theatre, would’ve hopefully at the end of the session been initiated into a paradigm of contemporary theatre and mixed media performance.
The backdrop of a melange of images and texts in English & Sanskrit alluding to nature itself and the rich legacy of Chaitanya Vaiṣṇavism, mixed with the soundscape of jazz and electronic music in the foreground, as a conduit between the concept of divine love of Chaitanya Vaiṣṇavism with western idioms of romance. This set the stage for a story of a boy and a girl, in love. The narrative arguably is from the masculine perspective of the boy’s quest to merge with his lover, his transcendental journey into the feminine and an existential one into fatherhood. Perhaps it also a journey which “realizes the feminine fullness of the universe”. Janardhan Ghosh story telling (in English), is like a chant, leading the characters into realization of their fate & the audience into meditative visualization.
We hope to see more stories on the Katha – Koli platform in the future.
About Janardhan Ghosh
Inspired by his School Principal Fr. Hess S. J. and his father Ranjit Kr. Ghosh, who was an amateur actor in Dhanbad, he started his theatre activities at a very young age. Though he started studying engineering, he left it after a year and did his major in English from Calcutta University and simultaneously was passionately involved in theatre and worked under Subhasish Sarkar (Taranga), Jayati Bose (Sutrapat), Anjan Datta (Open Theatre), and Anjan Dasgupta (Nabanatyam). He took training in Puppetry from Partho Majumdar (Calcutta Puppet Theatre), Voice Projection from Samaresh Ghosh (PEX, AIR), Audio and Video Skills from Urmimala Basu (Actor) and Jagannath Basu (Director, Door Darshan).
He launched his own theatre group OGLAM (Organization to Give Life A Meaning) with an experimental performance based on Milan Kundera’s text (Immortality) in Derozio Hall (Presidency College) when he was an undergraduate student. He was trained specially by Wolfgung Kolneder (Grips Theatre, Berlin) for the first Bengali Grips production Care Kori Na, which turned out to be a turning point in his life. Immediately after that, he directed a major production “Flounder – Ekti Aitihasik Bhool” (based on Gunter Grass’s novel Der Butt) in collaboration with the Goethe Institute. Badal Sarkar (Shatabdi, Kolkata), Julien Beck (Living Theatre, USA) and Jerzy Grotowski (Poland) are strong theatrical influences in his aesthetical approaches. He has attended workshops conducted by Badal Sarcar, John Retallack (Company of Angels, UK) and Royal Shakespeare Company (UK). His most experimental work till date is “Ha Radhe… Let me be as She was” based on Chaitanya’s Raganurag Bhakti and Rilke’s Duino Elegies. It was a solo performance exploring the transcendental sexual discourse of a male devotee trying to be a Manjari (Radha’s Sakhi).
He wrote and directed plays for Taranga, OGLAM, Premier High School and College students and other Cultural Groups. He collaborated with many non-proscenium and informal theatre artists like Parnab Mukherjee (Theatre Curator and Activist), Sanchayan Ghosh (HOD, Kalabhavan, and Shantiniketan), Deb Kumar Paul (Mime Artist) and Brian Russo (Theatre Scholar, Actor, USA). He created a niche for himself through his off-off ‘Academy’ theatre.
He has received awards for Acting and Direction from various West Bengal based Annual Theatre Competition Organizers and received the Monash Golden Flame Award from Monash University, Australia, hosted by The Telegraph, Kolkata and Co-coordinator, International School Award, British Council. He was later given an opportunity by the legendary thespian Shyamanad Jalan to work for Padatik as a Resident Director. He started his Padatik-OGLAM journey with Girish Karnad’s Hayavadana. After that followed Ek Je Chillo Brikkho and Beyond Freud. He is strongly involved with the young people’s theatre and has taken up major projects for Sangeet Kala Mandir, Apeejay School, Queen of Missions School, MC Kejriwal Vidyapeeth, The Heritage School, Sushila Birla Girls School, Krishnamurty Schools, Pune and Varanasi, De-Nobili Schools, Dhanbad, Sijua, Digwadih and Mugma, and many others. He writes articles on Education, Performance and Spirituality for NIE, Times of India and conducts workshops for actors, students, teachers and executives. He has acted in television serials (Vidyasagar, Aguner Paroshmoni, Agnibina etc.). He has contributed as an Actor and dubbing artist for Short Films. (3 on a Bed, Let there be light, Satyakam, Ujaantali, SOS, Adrita). Has contributed as Voice Over artist for documentaries (Corporate: UNI Surveillance, NTA, IBAT, etc.. Creative : Bahoorupees of Bengal, Sikkim, Birbhum, Saura Paintings of Orissa for EZCC, Educational CDs, Dubbing for Discovery Channel, etc.). Has worked with the famous director Ravi Ojha for a short film on Aids with Ritwika Sahani as a co-actress.
All this while he had strived for a fresh and new method to engage with his passion and used Yoga extensively in his Theatre Art. He was trained in Yoga from the Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy, Divine Life Society, Hrishikesh, and he attended a crash course in Yoga-Theatre under the guidance of Dr. Ananda Giri of Yoganjali Natyalayam, Pondichery.
He is presently doing an academic research on “Sri Ramakrishna: a spiritual performer” from RKM Vivekananda University, Belur as a Research Fellow and Teaching Assistant. He has directed Mukta Mon based on Tagore’s philosophy and Khela… The Game by Sishir Kumar Das. His current works are Krshna Pakkho – Darkness Intercepted based on Tagore’s Raja and Kanchan Ranga by Shambhu Mitra.
He was invited by ZID Theatre, Amsterdam for a Summer Project to read a paper on Experimental Indian Theatre, and he also represented India as an Artist in the Connecting Classrooms programme in the UK (Stratford-upon Avon), for a seminar on Shakespeare for Students hosted by Royal Shakespeare Company and British Council. He has participated in the International Ibsen Festival, Delhi as an actor under the supervision of the world famous Polish Theatre Director W. Steneweski. He has recently been to Poland to participate in the India India Festival 2014 in Gardzienice, Lublin as a panellist in the Tagore Seminar and as an actor in a play based on Tagore’s life. He was invited by Rabindra Bharati University to read a paper in the 25th UGC International Conference and Theatre Festival -2015. He has acted in a feature film Babumosai Bandukbaaz, (Director: Kunal Nandi) for Pritish Nandy Productions, Mumbai. Presently, he is specializing in the Art of Spiritual Storytelling, Transcultural dialogue and Community interplay.
Janardan says, ‘Theatre is purgatory it sanitizes me and my actors, and even purges the society. It prepares us for a healthy journey and a coveted end, presumably Moksha.’