Friday, October 26, 2012


Ours is a strange city where middle aged men catch half a play at Rabindrasadan before catching the bus home from work. Following are a few observations of the quirks indigenous to the theatre culture of Kolkata.

1. Curtains in theatre halls in our city are like heirlooms in old households. They are thick and heavy and impeccably grand in design even though the layer of grime accumulating on the golden thread braided on the red velvet has permanently changed its colour to light brown. Curtains are Kolkata’s lasting colonial vestige. Like flaccid bystanders, they need not change with the pace at which the world enclosed by them evolves. They are retractable fourth walls at which an audience shifts its eyes and concentration after the second bell rings. They are the essential divide in realist theatre, the essential commodity to be done away with if the audience is to be robbed of an illusion. They are the keepers of the anticipations of the entire population in a theatre. In places the fabric has faded to translucence, offering the actor the feeble hope that he might be able to judge his audience through it before the play begins. The power it wields is tangible, silencing an entire audience as it rises. The older the playhouse, the stronger the smell of dust on its curtains.

2. Armrests are spaces of immense tension. But unlike disgust over ringing phones, battles between those who hog armrests in theatres and those made to keep their arms to themselves are fought silently.

3. Curtain calls are to a play what acknowledgements are to a book. They are varied in duration ranging from fifteen minutes (in case of first shows) where the director introduces each member of the cast and talks about his play at length to a hurried parting and closing of the curtains during which the cast and the director fit in a hasty humble namashkar. Sometimes the curtain never falls back down and the actors break positions to mingle among the audience who are unsure as to whether to treat this as part of the performance. At other times the curtain call too is a choreographed and rehearsed presentation, involving elaborate sequences of bowing or characters portrayed as adversaries in the play reuniting. Most actors look visibly excited during this coda to the performance but a few are noticeable in their impassiveness and tendency to get over with a curtain call as quickly as possible. As some members of the audience stand up, a few others urge them (with characteristic Bengali attention to collective appreciation of the arts) to sit still and wait till the show (which is technically over) is ‘over’. The call also serves as an opportunity to click the ensemble cast with phone cameras which had to be kept away till then. Most importantly, however, the curtain call is the time set apart for the Kolkata audience to smile at the actors on the stage as if they were very old friends.

4. An actor’s wig or a part of his costume coming apart on stage is an event of great anxiety for the audience. While the performer is intent on seamlessly acting out his part as if nothing has happened, the audience has already decided that it is the flailing wig that is going to occupy their complete attention. When he at last reinstates or gets rid of the errant accessory, the audience heaves a collective sigh of relief, having been freed of the great discomfort of watching the actor’s distress at the unraveling of the machinery involved in creating his character.

5. The other day audiences of the play ‘Bishorjon’ witnessed a rat making its way across the Academy of Fine Arts stage as the Purohit lay in a crumpled heap over Jaisingha’s dead body. The rat travelled deftly through the network of ramparts holding up Suman Mukhopadhyay’s slanted wooden set, entering through the right wing and leaving through the left, having utilized the performance space like a seasoned stage veteran.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Other Pamuks

I have decided to write a line or two about Orhan Pamuk because the way he is clamping upon my soul is disconcerting. I love Pamuk because I have a deep emotional association with his writing. I feel he writes only and only to reach out to me, as if to assert that it is me and no one else in the universe that he is writing for. Pamuk is my property. I own him, I own all interpretations of his work and look away when anybody tries to discuss Pamuk. Because they have no idea what Pamuk is. They might have read his novels but only I have lived them. Only I have understood what it is to feel that your thoughts are someone else's too, that he has written them down for the express purpose of saving you.

I feel incredibly relieved thinking of this. Thinking that Pamuk is my own and that those surrounding me have accepted it. Thinking that once the whole world recognises that Pamuk is my personal saviour, they will also grasp the fact that he and I are part of the same mental faculty, having profoundly symbiotic existences. That my disillusionment is valid because he felt the same disillusionment thirty years ago. That my city can burn down because the yalis lining the Bosphorous did too. And most importantly, that I can lie to my father because so did Pamuk when he was my age.

The other day I was revelling in a particular similarity between me and my author when suddenly a voice inside me said, 'Pffft.' It was snide and mocked my fanaticism. And because the voice was mine I decided that maybe I was being illogical. And that just maybe, the right to worshipping Pamuk was not just mine. I decided to start discussing him. I will discuss him more. For all I know, the voice could have been his.

Okay it was not. Stop laughing immediately.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Saturday, March 17, 2012

What Happens in the House

I have come to the conclusion that for someone as lazy as I, a picture blog is the way to go.

Monday, February 6, 2012

End of Winter

Blankets in the sun.