Shudrka’s latest play, Phiribar Poth Nai delves into the life and writings of one of Bengal’s most enigmatic poets

Set in a small room filled with Jibanananda’s books and collections, the play’s atmosphere is intimate and immersive.
A scene from the play
A scene from the play

Jibanananda Das, often hailed as one of the most significant Bengali poets after Rabindranath Tagore, is celebrated for his profound and evocative poetry that vividly captures the essence of Bengal. Despite his substantial contributions to literature, Jibanananda’s life and works have often remained shrouded in mystery. Shudrka’s new play, Phiribar Poth Nai (No Way Out), masterfully unravels this enigma, offering audiences a captivating exploration of the poet’s journey.

“Our play is less concerned with recounting the episodes of Jibanananda Das’ life than with contextualising an output that grew more opaque over time,” explains director Swapan Mondal.

The play intricately weaves Jibanananda’s poetry with his fiction, essays, and correspondence, creating a rich tapestry that reflects the complexities of his thoughts and emotions. Through extensive crossreferencing, the production illuminates the stylistic and unique language traits of his work, underscoring his modernist credentials.

Sourabhi Ray, one of the actors, describes the play as “more like a search, and we as actors are representatives of those searching for Jibanananda Das.”

This journey of discovery is both personal and collective, inviting the audience to delve deeper into the poet’s world. “Jibanananda Das is not a simple text; enacting it and putting a message through with much honesty was the greatest challenge,” she adds.

A scene from the play
The role I play in Aranmanai 4 is a first for me: Tamannaah Bhatia

The play features three actors — Swapan Mondal, Sohini Basu, and Sourabhi Ray—who seamlessly transition between multiple characters from Jibanananda’s life. This dynamic approach reflects the poet’s multifaceted persona and the diverse influences on his work. “His whole life kind of merged into his writings, and that is his speciality,” notes Sohini Basu. She portrays characters such as Shobona, Jibanananda’s lover, and Uma, a naive village girl with big dreams, among others.

Set in a small room filled with Jibanananda’s books and collections, the play’s atmosphere is intimate and immersive. The actors enter this space, embodying various figures from the poet’s life as they uncover his stories through his writings. The production is punctuated by songs and music, adding a lyrical dimension to the narrative.

Jibanananda Das’s tragic death — being hit by a tramcar — is a recurring motif in the play, provoking contemplation about whether it was an accident, suicide, or murder. The play serves as a tribute to his legacy on his 125th birth year, asserting that he deserves more critical acclaim than he has historically received.

Tickets at Rs 150. June 30, 8 pm.

At Lamakaan, Banjara Hills.

Written by Sanjana Pulugurtha

Mail: indulge@newindianexpress.com

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