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Theatre || Guns n’ Roses (The Nature of Barbers)

As Kolkata theatre steadily sheds off its amateur hang-ups, creating celebrities and becoming an object of celebration in itself, it is time that theatre enthusiasts across the region also begin to peek further away from home and appreciate the burgeoning talent pool in the off-Kolkata centres of artistic excellence.

They are those that are consistently starved of funds, creating universes out of virtually nothing but an assemblage of smartly executed elements and a vibrant group of executioners – barbers they are, not unlike Anubrata Das’ rendition of the Tomaniyan barber in Rangan’s production ‘Guns n’ Roses’ (Inspired by Chaplin’s ‘The Great Dictator’ and Asim Trivedi’s ‘Jodi Binirman’). They are the talents who dare to define ‘God’ as not the one who perpetually destroys to create but the one who kindly trims the shades of grey when they are no longer able to elicit vivid emotions.

The particular show I had the opportunity of attending being Rangan’s first as a group in the city, the execution had its fair share of nervous ticks. To the credit of the company, however, they had a tried and tested scriptural backing, hosting a confluence of ideas, including those espoused in Charles Chaplin’s ‘The Great Dictator’. The veracity of Chaplin’s creation, underpinned by a crystal conviction of the adaptation and expert use of symbols on stage, make sure that Rangan delivers  a production worth speaking of.

The blatant addresses of the author-figure, who eventually runs foul of the authority figures in the play, may be justified in the course of the narrative but ultimately lacks subtlety and consequently, the intended punch. But a flaw such as this is aptly compensated by the brilliant exposure of the inherent nature of the communal forces that lunges at power using the formula of divide. The clever stroke that has an amplified effect on stage is the seamless transition of the communal identities, all executed by a single man, Arijit Pal, in a commendable act where he transforms effortlessly from a fervent Nazi to an Islamic terror mouthpiece, as well as a Hindu fundamentalist – passing gibberish as jargon in the methodical vein of a conniving pulpit man who has the capacity of manipulating friends to stab each other on the back.

Whereas there is that need to deconstruct and rectify the mind that erroneously finds pleasure in the annihilation of the world we inhabit, the call of the hour is to expose the bluff of this methodical madness – commonly reflected in the syntax, the turn of phrases they employ to poison human minds. The need of the hour is to realise that these roles are one and the same, no matter which God/s they try to demarcate their ‘group’ with. They are the collective agents of the chaos that hinders salvation, that which attempts to destroy the shimmering innocence of a Barber.

A projection of Chaplin’s iconic speech from ‘The Great Dictator’ circling off the presentation, Rangan’s ‘Guns n’ Roses’ is a well rounded drama indeed. Aided by an impressive lighting scheme that he conceived as well, director Anupam Dasgupta deftly adapts to and utilises the tools at his disposal to present a tremendously relevant drama that stokes just the right cells.

The conspiracy of roses, after all, is all one can fall back on, in the face of a thousand cocked guns. []

Drama: Guns n’ Roses
Writer/Director: Anupam Dasgupta
Language: Bengali


Published in Issue #5 of CultureCult Magazine (Summer 2016)

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