The play is based on a novel by mystic author Bibhutibhusan Bandyopadhyay, the storyline of which depicts a picturesque disorder created by sudden ripples overwhelming a simple and placid life.
The fiction is set in the time period of pre-WWII Bengal. The protagonist, Shashanka, is a no-nonsense kind of rural doctor, quite influential and very strict in developing and maintaining moral values among the villagers. The rather eventless life of his, revolving around his wife, two offsprings and a couple of sidekicks, is suddenly met with Panna, a queer-natured danseuse. So far Shashanka used to hate the kind of music and dance Panna is an exponent of. Yet, coming across from close quarters, Shashanka starts feeling irresistibly drawn towards the sensuality that Panna carries in her art. He, as if for the first time, discovers that there is something called 'woman' which appeals to his subconscious yearning for the intricacies of the fairer sex. He drifts away from the life of an established physician, very regardful of moral and ethical values, and takes charge of the theatre troupe Panna is a member of. Coming out of the clutches of a drab and disciplined life, he sways away and takes a plunge in the seemingly bottomless ocean of worldly pleasures. The craving for love and sensuality may be fleeting but is inexorable all the way, he realizes.
Shashanka may perhaps, one day, come back to his past dull and mundane life but the plunge he took in the seas of beauty and desire etches out the quiescent longing for the eternal yet unattainable bliss in every mortal.
Athoi Jal, a novel by Bibhutibhusan Bandopadhyay, was written in 1947, the year we achieved Independence. Like his other novels it too is a period piece, but here the period plays a latent role, on a hidden note. The conflict and confluence of cosmic with worldly, the basic tenets of Bibhutibhusan's works, are totally amiss in Athol Jal. It is passionately a love story, a thread of relationship between in-equals; in age, class and stature. It takes us to a wodd by passing the mundane of marital and extra marital, of societal and beyond, of moral and immoral. It is a far away land from the world of Pather Panchali, Aranyak or even Devjan.
Although Bibhutibhusan has kept me mesmerized since I was 7 or 8, it was during college years that I found friends who too were not spared by the magic spell that the great author could create in young minds. I can still recall a friend who often claimed that Bibhutibhusan's contributions to world literature surpass that of the works of greats like Pushkin, Balzac, Flaubert, Dostoyevsky, Chekov or Tolstoy taken together. A over-statement indeed though, the spell that Bibhutibhusan's works weaves is uniquely rare.
Athoi Jal is not a popular piece in that sense. But reasons for choosing such a work for stage production is essentially its basic structure which tells a tale that explores the meaning and mystery of life in all its intricacy though they always remain elusive. The life force behind the Purba-Paschim is the architect of this new venture. For stage adaptation of the novel I reposed my frost once again on friend and playwright Ujjwal Chattopadhayay. Earlier, he did excellently in adaptation for my previous projects namely meghe dhaka tare, Byomkesh from artham-anartham, Adya Sesh Rajani from Shyaml Gangopadhaya's novel, Ekush Gram for I natur's film Twenty One Grams. This time also Ujjwal finished the work in a very short time and we could start the rehearsal schedule early. The spirit and zeal of the Purba-Paschim members for every details and their dedication, a must for a good production, have energized me a great deal. I hope this joint efforts of Soumitra Mitre, the life force behind the Purba-Paschim and Malabika Mitre will receive critical appreciation from the theatre audiences of West Bengal.
Least I would like to talk about is the production, or about the acting and the other aspects of the play. The audience are the best judge and if we receive their appreciation and patronage, we will then cell it a success.
- Bratya Basu
Shashanka - Debshankar Halder
Inspector - Soumitra Mitra
Young Shashanka (School) - Sanjay Chakraborty
Young Shashanka (College) - Bikramjit Sinha
Sanatan - Arup Ratan Ganguly
Brojo - Dibyendu Naskar
Ramlal - Amit Deb
Ramprasad / Jhadumallick - Dipankar Halder
Gobinda - Pradip Hait
Ramhori / Patient - Debashis Roy
Narohori / Police - Ratul Majumder
Abdul - Joy Aheri
Jagannath - Dipen Bhattacharya
Nepal Pramanik - Raju Kundu
Khoka - Rishav Adhikari
Banku Bihari - Tarun Pal
Patient - Bidhan Patra
Villager - Jayanta Roy
Jadu Friend I Villager - Kunal Bhumik
Compounder - Dilip Kumar Paul
Adhikari - Souvik Bera
Surobala - Rajeswari Nandi
Panna - Suparna Maitra Das
Santi - Suchandra Show
Padma - Payel Ghosh
Rami - Reshmi Rahaman
Panna (Dammy) - Koyel Roy
Panna’s Mother - Farhin Sultana
NiIi - Chalantika Gangopadhyay
Aunt / Villager Aditi Banerjee
Script - Ujjwal Chattopadhaya
Edit & Direction - Bratya Basu
Music Compose - Subhadip Guha
Light Compose - Dinesh Poddar
Set Design - Prithwis Rana
Costume Design - Malabika Mitra & Madhumita Dam
Make-Up - Md. Ali
Body Movement - Indudipa Sinha Dyuti
Sound - Adhir Ganguly
Direction Associate - Sumanta Roy & Pradip Hait