C.H.U.T.I.Y.A by M.A.D
What We Liked
What We Disliked
It’s the story of Abani Som, a local thug from Park Circus, who makes his way into the loop of the system and rises to power at the cost of wiping out others on his way. It’s the story Anarchy in the face of Fascism that ends in contemplation and lament.
C.H.U.T.I.Y.A (Cold Human Understanding of Tyranny Insanity Yearning and Affection) by M.A.D (Mad about Drama) is a reinterpretation and transcreation of Bertolt Brecht’s classic “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” in Bengali.
The original play by Brecht is set in the blooming Chicago underworld, and it chronicles the rise of a petty gangster to a powerful dictator, parodying the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany. C.H.U.T.I.Y.A, set in early 21st Century Kolkata, is an honest attempt from director Aritra Sengupta, to transcreate the story of Bertolt Brecht’s play in the context of Bengal, pointing fingers at politicians, parties, the media, and the unholy nexus between the criminals and other social institutions.
Satyabrata Nag, the finance minister of the state, falls prey to a luring offer, and sanctions the loan for a state-of-the-art market place in the city. The fact, that Satyabrata Nag is a 60% share holder of the market place, reaches the ears of Abani Som and his mob of gangsters, who hitherto used to run protection rackets. Abani Som realises his opportunity and takes advantage of the situation, using his crude method of violence wherever necessary to push Nag to the back foot and finally rises to replace him as the finance minister of the state.
Soumya Mukherjee played Satyabrata Nag and could have added more strength to the character. Soham Majumdar as Abani Som was honestly natural and stood out from the ensemble. Aritra Sengupta as Zak and Najrin Islam as an unidentified appeared to be quite convincing in their brief appearances. Ritwik Sinha as the newsreader/soothsayer also played an interesting part in the play, while Soumyadip Banerjee, playing Nag’s son, raises a stirring question that is bound to make you think about your own virtues.
The use of original music was a brave step to highlight the narrative, but except for the track “ami shob Chutiya ke chini”, the other numbers doesn’t create the impact one expects from the use of music, and it seems a little forcefully pushed to bring flavor to the play that already bears a heavy baggage of dialogues.
Lighting wasn’t well coordinated in parts and the effects neither made the play aesthetically pleasing nor got what it bargained for.
And it’s surprising how with Binodbihari Mitra for company, even Abani Som uses Shakespeare as a metaphor and repeats the famous speech by Antony from Julius Caesar in fluent English, in his effort to imbibe the style of addressing the public!
Although in the original play by Brecht, Hitler’s own learned prowess at public speaking is referenced by Ui receiving lessons from an actor which include him reciting from Julius Caesar, the same speech has no space in this play, and should have been substituted with something more relevant to the texture and originality of the play.
Common production techniques in epic theatre, which include a simplified, non-realistic scenic design, offset against a selective realism in costuming and props, as well as announcements or visual captions that interrupt and summarize the action were used in the play to keep the original essence of the Bertolt Brecht style.
Flooding the theater with bright lights (not just the stage), having actors play multiple characters, having actors also rearrange the set in full view of the audience and "breaking the fourth wall" by speaking to the audience were honest attempts by the director to achieve the Verfremdungs-effekt, which was one of the most important techniques Brecht developed to perform epic theater.
But why the name ‘C.H.U.T.I.Y.A’?
The ‘Hindi’ dictionary meaning of the word is ‘fool’.
Is it misused on the lines of a common misconception so as to justify the profanities thereafter, such that the play can stand as a satire for the purpose of constructive social criticism?
Or does the argument that the title was a cleverly measured poke at curiosity, has a point in it?
Neither the songs nor the story of the play can provide a substantial answer to that!
All in all, it was an inspired effort from a brave young director from Jadavpur University, crudely touching upon the layered fascism in an imposturous society!
Utpal Dutta had once said, “Some dense illiterate intellectuals say that they are doing Brecht to introduce him to the local people. Such posturing do not convince anybody. Arturo Ui's symbolism will not be understood by the Bengali audiences. To show Indian fascism, why not choose an Indian background? Like Indira Gandhi as a Chambal dacoit? . . . What is the point of turning to Chicago, my friend, when you see everything at home? If you want to produce a Hitler-story for the Bengali audience, it must be more intelligible than the story in Arturo Ui.”