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     Volume 7 Issue 51 | January 2, 2009 |

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Featuring Darkness of Soul

Ershad Kamol

Natural instincts of human beings have been brought under the spotlight in Mahakal, Natyasamradaya's latest production Ahom Tamosha. Everybody in society is greedy, hypocrital, selfish and cruel, which has been presented aptly in young playwright Anon Zaman's drama. Every character in the play represents the darker side of society.

The play Ahom Tamosha (darkness of the soul) begins with a scene from a nightmare scene where the protagonist; Rohel Mridha, awakes after dreaming that he was going to die and decides to confess all of his sins to his associates.

At the outset, one might confuse the confessions of the diabolical Mridha with the clever storytelling of Arabian Nights. But analysing the structure of the play-- use of symbols, metaphors and style of narration it can be safely said that the play follows Selim Al Deen's style, who set a new trend of narration based on the indigenous performing art forms. In fact, Anon Zaman, who was a student of Al Deen, is highly influenced by his mentor, especially in case of narration and use of metaphysical conceits.

The specialty of the play remains in its portrayal of real life images of the peripheral areas of urban life where many emerge as criminals due to a faulty social structure. Each night Rohel Mridha narrates a new story from his dark past and gives a clue of the following story to be told the following night. The stories feature his growing up as a diabolical character, his crimes, and his relationship with a harlot named Reboti who still lives with him but is in love with Mridha's bodyguard named Abdel.

However, the Ahom Tamosha is not only the narration of dark pasts, rather, features the cruelty of Mridha in his last days of life. Reacting to the relationship between Abdel, his illegitimate son, and his mistress Reboti; the aging Rohel Mridha decides to kill Reboti.

But, Anon Zaman's craftsmanship has a few flaws. The play is full of stories of hatred and violence, which sometimes appear a little exaggerated. Moreover, there is no relief for the audience in the play that makes it monotonous. Another major drawback of the play is Zaman's craftsmanship. He has used standard Bangla for narration and for dialogue of the characters portraying downtrodden people as well, but, some sentences are not grammatically jarringly incorrect.

Distinguishing between present scenes, flashback scenes and imagined scenes is a major challenge for the director Azad Abul Kalam. The director has efficiently handled this. The smooth transition between scenes and effective use of physical acting are key features of Kalam's directorial compositions. He has handled well the visualising of several characters with a limited number of actors. Through the physical movements and mimetic gestures the actors have simulated the narratives. Doing that the actors with masks appear on the stage in case of enacting minor characters.

In fact, Azad Abul Kalam has been using masks as an element of his directorial compositions for the plays after his recent visit to Japan. Even the movements of the actors on stage sometimes appear a repetition of the directorial compositions in earlier plays in many scenes.

But the major challenge that the director faced in the play is that all of the actors except Meer Zahid Hasan performed in the play are inexperienced and young. Sometimes, it appears that the actors are just narrating on the stage without incorporating the aesthetic sentiment. And most of the actors struggle to articulate Anon Zaman's difficult diction.

Except Ferdaus Ekram in the role of young Rohel Mridha and Rajnya Taslim as Abdel, none of the actors perform enthusiastically on the stage. Ekram's mimetic gestures go well to portray a cruel, pervert and emerging terrorist character. Rajnya Taslim also performs boldly to enact in the role of multidimensional character Abdel. Perhaps, it would not be an injustice to the troupe saying acting is the weakest part of the play.

Similarly, set and light design of the play are not praiseworthy. Faiz Zahir's light and set designs are not effective, especially the set elements four rope made structures at the two wings of the stage have no use and appear as ornaments. His glass-made structure used at the centre of the stage is quite effective and handy for directorial compositions. But, there is room for improving light design particularly in the scenes portraying powerful narratives.

Mahakal Natyasampradaya staged Ahom Tamosha on December 27 at the Experimental Theatre Stage, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy.

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