বিনোদিনী অপেরা ~ ঝালাপালা যাত্রা পালা
A review on “Binodini Opera” the Play, with some further self narrations
After a rather hectic last week of September, my aunt and I decided to go watch a play at the theatre on Saturday the 30th. She too has been busy ever since her arrival in Kolkata and both of us wanted to wind down. After much internet surfing, we found one play that suited our forte. “Binodini Opera” written by Abanti Chakraborty and co-written by Sibashis Bandopadhyay has been hitting the waves recently so we decided to check it out. Initially my mother wanted to go as well, as she read great things about the play on Facebook, and so we booked three e-tickets. Unfortunately she couldn't make it, and now I'm jealous of her. Because witnessing that play might just have been the worst theatre experience in my life so far.
After two hours of travelling through almost every other transport there is in Kolkata, we finally reached GD Birla Shabhaghar. Not gonna lie, it's a good place. A very photogenic interior and good air conditioning. However they were not allowing us to carry water bottles inside, which was pretty inhumane if you ask me. I still sneaked in a bottle of mine without notice. I tend to get rather parched at all times so I need some water to wet my mouth and throat. But that's besides the point. After collecting our tickets, aunt and I had a photo session. Following us other people started amateur clicking as well, as if we gave them some confidence. We waited for half an hour or so outside the hall before finally being let in.
The audience, in big halls like these, are divided into tier categories based on what amount of ticket we purchase. We were in the Gold category, and in front of us were the Premium. It was surprising at first to see the Premium completely filled up and the Gold being half empty because while booking the website had shown that the Gold seats were almost full as well. However, by intermission the concerning bit changed its reason for being so concerning in the first place.
The play started quite late, around half passed six. That should've been our first red flag, but it wasn't. Instead it was the first two minutes of the play. They started with a song as an intro. Live music with instrumentalists at the back and the entire cast on the stage singing the song. My only detriment is that I waited. I waited way too long in hopes of it turning around and somehow becoming a good play. But from the very beginning it wasn't and I should have seen that coming.
Noti Binodini is the finest most prestigious figure in Bengal theatre. Bengal theatre flourished because of her, and yet her life was full of pain and suffering. In the last year of my Bachelor's degree in English, I had to study her autobiography. Reading her words opened up an entirely new world for me. My respect for her increased immensely after gaining more knowledge and clarity and my love for her character was immortalised. Thus, to see such a terrible misrepresentation of her on the stage made me feel utterly visceral and I ultimately felt that I could not stand it. After the curtains fell for half time, my aunt and I decided to leave.
But before we get to the end of it, let's discuss the nitty gritty a little.
As the name suggests, the drama was a rather poor attempt at a musical. Dialogues were all over the place and the beginning didn't even make sense. Neither of the actors had a voice or throw of words you'd expect from theatre artists. Everything was rather bland and things seemed off. Nothing was connected, neither the events nor the actions. The play started in medias res and tried to make up for it by quickly summarising the backstory through feeble dialogues, which was an absolute disaster. Actress Sudipta Chakraborty was not a good pick for the role of Binodini. Girish Ghosh was portrayed even worse. The relationship between the both of them was not established beyond a guru-shishya state and that bothered me because of its inaccuracy. At some point they decided that making Binodini dream about acting as Lady Macbeth would be a great idea and then that went downhill trying to portray it on stage. In a hall full of appreciative clapping that felt like well practised cues, my aunt and I were sitting abysmal, impatient, and dissapointed. At the end of the day, there was no creativity. All they did was adapt the autobiography of Binodini Dasi herself but made a terrible interpretation out of it. Even the stage design is not worth appreciating.
Our entertainment fiasco of the night came to an end when aunt and I decided to set off homewards as soon as the bell rang for intermission. As if we hadn't witnessed enough drama already, the bus that we got up on brought our worst nightmares to life. Definitely at no point during the two hour ride home did we feel like we were going to survive. It almost felt like we were running away with all our might from the disaster that ruined our evenings. But the torturous journey somehow felt deserved, as if we'd brought this doom upon ourselves.
I wish popular theatre troupes did not use other popular pieces of literature in vain in their dramas that don't relate to the topic or genre. The Lady Macbeth scene was entirely unnecessary. The genre of the play itself was unclear actually. Was it abstract? Was it absurd? Was it a musical? Was it not? At no point could I answer these questions in my head. I've never trusted Facebook reviews myself but I've trusted mother's opinion. It disheartens me to see her being proven wrong this way. What a waste of time it truly was and I never wish to experience something like this ever in the future. Do I recommend watching “Binodini Opera”? Absolutely not. Are you free to disregard my opinions? Most definitely. But here's a warning: heed your actions, lest you suffer. 'Netflix and chill' would be a much better option in my opinion.