Vol. 5 Num 54 Mon. July 19, 2004  

Dhaka Drama Festival 2004: Review
An adapted play from the Mahabharata
It is well-known that in the classical epics like the Iliad, Mahabharata and others, human beings are divided by religion and caste. This fact is reflected in Desh Natak's production Nittapuran. As part of the drama festival arranged by BGTF, Desh Natak staged their popular classic on July 17 at the Experimental Theatre Stage.

Nittapuran presents the history of human civilisation with a unique touch. Adapted from the Mahabharata, Masum Reza's play Nittapuran presents Eklabba, a minor character in the epic, as the protagonist because of his latent truth and heroism. Through a storyteller, the playwright narrates Eklabba's story, which has a greater effect on us than that of the whole of Mahabharata. The narrator further adds that they will present Vyas Dev's epic in a new way.

In the play some legendary characters, such as the five Pandabs, are depicted as villains. Many lower caste human beings like Eklabba and others are the victims of jealousy, vindictiveness and tricky politics of gods and upper caste people. This eternal social problem is the theme of the play. The playwright has successfully expressed some implicit facts and questions of the myth through logic. Some dialogues of the play are very emotional and philosophical. Masum Reza's play has a poetic flavour. And his dialogue diction expresses the grandeur of the legend.

But, to portray Eklabba as superior to the upper caste heroes in every way, Masum has presented him as a character with double standards. For example, at the beginning of the play Eklabba says, 'Only the Pandabas and Kaurabs heroes are wily' and later when he meets Draupadi, he again says, 'I am not less wily than you are'. Eklabba's double standard, in fact, goes against his heroism. However, Masum's handling of the sequences--such as cutting the thumb of Eklabba to pay the due to his imaginary mentor Dronacharya and in the final scene when Draupadi declares on seeing the corpse of Eklabba, 'Here lies the greatest human being--' touches the heart of the audience.

As a director, Masum Reza is also successful at handling the narrative technique. He unfolds the story of the play through a narrator. He has also handled the climax of the play quite successfully. The choreography, particularly in case of archery, is spectacular.

Kamaluddin Kabir's set design is simple but symbolically effective to support the theme. He has used a statue at the back stage. Light designer Nasirul Haq Khokon has once again proved his usual mastery. The best part of his designing is visibility, texture and use of symbolic colours on the cyclorama.

Dilip as Eklabba, Chumki as Draupadi and Suman as Dronacharya performed well. Dipanwita's acrobatic displays to portray the image of an arrow were really enjoyable. Other performers need to improve their skill to do justice to the play.

A sequence from the play