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Living happily ever after

Just as Cocteau would have made life fall in love with death sneaking through a mirror, Bhootum Bhagaban (the fourth play staged as a part of Vodafone Odeon Theatre Festival at Madhusudan Mancha on 3 December) creates two parallel worlds ~ life and after-life. Though the concept, ghost can be angels, in the first half of the play might give audience a distant whiff of the movie, Bhoothnath, director and playwright Raja Bhattacharyya has done all to rub the smell away by adding more dimensions to it.
The story is essentially about trust. Humans do not believe in themselves anymore, leave alone ghosts. Ghost-world suffers from similar identity crisis. So, on World Ghost Day, leader Bangal bhoot rebukes the merrymaking phantoms and gives them a glimpse of a bleak future ahead. All try to think of a way so that humans start believing in ghosts again. And thus, ghost of a 10-year-old, Ekala, suggests that there is no other way than to stop hating humans and do good. He is banished from the ghostdom for being a human sympathiser and is given six months to prove that what he proposes can be done. So, Ekala sets out on a journey to prove himself just as Tukai, a 12-year-old boy, does after being thrown out of his house by his father for failing exams. Ekala befriends Tukai and gives him a magic spell ~ Shotti mone ja chaibi, pabi.
The story then takes a very beaten path with rogues turned good. Promoter brainwashed by ‘bad’ ghosts jealous of Ekala, old village school, land grab, attempt to murder and Ekala and Tukai emerging as heroes in the end. The play was old wine in new bottle and yet people enjoyed it for the marvelous performance given by Ekala bhoot, a show-stealer indeed. People just sat and watched him for his c-quotient, c for cute. The play was honestly farcical making the audience love the excesses. However, it could have been sweeter with the director not dragging it for long two hours. Unnecessary appendages to the play made it a bit tedious. The scene with a matronly ghost pining for a son stood out in the play.
The characters seemed unprepared in the first scene of the play with make-up of one of the actors missing but soon the focus shifted to Ekala and in the next scene all of them had their make-up and gears. Though there was nothing much to the light and the stage, the dialogues made everything else seem unnecessary. They were so witty that the audience would not stop laughing even if others had to miss a couple of lines. The scenes preached subtly with parents nodding with pleasure that they bought their children to see the play. At curtain call, there was a standing ovation and people were not sure whether it was for the play or for Ekala. It could have been either. Group Blank Verse certainly gave the audience some family time.

Soma Basu

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