Sarpamasta, Dir. Debesh Roy Chowdhury. Photo Credit Pranab Basu.

Sarpamasta, Dir. Debesh Roy Chowdhury. Photo Credit Pranab Basu.

Kolkata Rangeela began its journey as a new theatre group in March 2014. But even before that, Kaushik Kar, the chieftain of this family, took baby steps towards the giant leap of forming a potential team, by performing with Minerva Repertory Theatre in a play called Sarpamasta, directed by a veteran in the field, Debesh Roy Chowdhury. Kaushik did not have to look back after that. With more zeal, and oodles of enthusiasm, he went on to adapt a screen success like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest for the stage. And lately, the mind-blowing performance at the Academy of Fine Arts has kept audiences spellbound.

No doubt, Jack Nicholson brings Ken Kesey’s Randle P. McMurphy to life almost impeccably. His “contagious sense of disorder” sends a heavy jolt through the otherwise drab routine of the mental hospital. The open tussle between the “coolly monstrous” Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) and Murphy takes a sinister turn when Murphy is sent for a lobotomy and subsequently deliberately smothered to death by his friend-admirer, an inmate of the

hospital, who cannot bear Murphy’s zombie-like state. Kaushik Kar has adapted the film brilliantly with a message of his own, one that holds immediate appeal for the masses—theatre can relieve us of all tensions; theatre can bring a sea-change to society; hence theatre should be looked upon not just as a mode of entertainment but as a panacea.

Sarpamasta, Dir. Debesh Roy Chowdhury. Photo Credit Pranab Basu.

Sarpamasta, Dir. Debesh Roy Chowdhury. Photo Credit Pranab Basu.

Louise Fletcher’s role is deftly played by Sangita Pal, though the scowl set permanently on her face is a deterrent to the already moribund ambience of the infirmary. The way she announces “It’s medication time” each day is more than enough to drive anyone crazy, leave any patient half-dead. And Kaushik, as Patient No. 10, is determined to bring a breath of fresh air by enlivening the ambience: talking about his past, sharing snippets of humor, encouraging all to celebrate a day outside the stuffy atmosphere of the asylum, enjoying a theatrical show at Rabindra Sadan. But his efforts are wasted as he is sacrificed on the altar of vengeance by the Nurse whom he has disobeyed, even laughed at.

The production may not be flawless, but the stamp of originality can hardly be glossed over. Kudos to Kaushik and Jayishnu Bhattacharya for presenting such an electrifying show to the audience. They can expect more of Kaushik and Jayishnu in the years to come.

Adapted with permission from 2016 Muse India.

This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.