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Theatre || Pornomochi

Pornographic discourses have ceased to be as scandalous or hushed as they used to be if we turn back the clock a little. It has, however, become even more ironical that a modern society which has so readily accepted sexuality in myriad avatars still has an unfortunate image in front of the world of being a ‘rape nation’ and is effectively a shut-off fortress of Victorian prudery when it comes to discussing sexuality instead of ‘porn’.

Thus, young thespian & writer-director Koushik Kar takes the onus unto himself to weave a comprehensive narrative meant to explore both porn and the dreaded ‘s’ word in a framework featuring a cast of identifiable character, headed by the teenage protagonist Anal (Shantanu Nath).

Anal’s decline into a confused state of inner desires and addictions stems from the untimely demise of his father and his subsequent discovery  of intimate video footage featuring his father and a former girlfriend, shot by the deceased who had a documented passion for filmmaking. The video instantly becomes Anal’s prized possession, an     exclusive voyeuristic black hole among his collection of High Definition pornography.

Adolescent psychology resides at the heart of Kar’s script with equal emphasis given to the abysmal state of sex education in schools to the prosaic vulnerability of teenage angst, made worse by a world culture that commodifies ‘sex’, further compartmentalizing the case of ‘love’. The desensitization and the descent is starkly brought to life in tropes of both ‘fantasy’ and reality, even as the bereaved chooses to see his father in the darkest light that his own impressionable soul can emit.

Billed rather wrongly as a piece of ‘bold theatre’ presumably for adults, the script compensates the buzzworthy and detailed fantasies (that even includes a near-striptease) with weighed accounts of a symptomatic, patriarchal police officer torn in the throes of countering social evil during the day and that of his desires during the night, when virtual Russian beauties become as much a source of respite for him as alcohol. The fact that he fathers a teenage daughter and harbours grave contempt for those who dare commit atrocities against women & even expresses deep frustration at the tight leash of law when it comes to imparting justice, make him a character of note indeed.

Satish Shaw turns out to be a revelation in the act of a dealer in pornography, a role that is as much a comic relief as a stringent indictment of society who link their inner demons to the people who help them feed that darkness within, overlooking any shred of light that may flicker beneath the darkest of facades and ‘criminalizing’ them when one is overwhelmed by the realization of  personal follies.

The conflict of Freudian ‘truths’ and markedly different human values comes to the fore in a rather ingenious, yet seemingly unnecessary twist which lends the play a markedly ‘Oedipal’ effect without conventionally     resorting to the Hamletian model, remaining closer to the Sophoclean legend instead.

The final message of ‘hope’, wonderfully articulated after shedding the inherent pun in ‘Porn”omochi (deciduous), works as an oasis for the confused state of mind, equating overcoming preconceptions to the annual shedding of leaves among deciduous species.

A largely engaging script with infusions of humour and (dirty) play of words (the very names of the protagonist and that of his girlfriend ‘Parno’) forms the backbone of the first production of this new theatre group ‘Kolkata Opera’. While many in the production are stage professionals, a few more rehearsals would benefit the entire production and especially address the concern when it comes to a handful of peripheral characters.

Shantanu Nath is suitably intense as Anal, never breaking the illusion of ‘teen spirit’ during the process. Kar is adequate on stage but appears more at ease on screen during the visuals. Tannishtha Biswas pulls off the teenage act without drifting into overt theatrics while Satish Shaw definitely takes away the cherry of the pie. Rahul Sengupta makes a fine case of the angry police officer. Ankita Majhi is without a doubt ‘bold’ in her rendition of Anal’s fantasy but effortlessly transforms herself into a stark opposite by the close of play. A special mention must be made of Madhumita Sengupta who plays the bereaved woman and mother to Anal, to clinical perfection.

The drama would definitely improve as an overall production as more shows are staged but it had been apparent on the evening of the premiere itself that Kolkata Opera has a relevant production on its hands; one that would probably benefit parents and young adults alike for its deft handling of vital social problem. For that, though, ‘Pornomochi’ needs to shed off the misleading ‘branding’ of being a piece of ‘adult theatre’ and speak for what the playwright truly wishes to communicate. []

Drama: Pornomochi
Written and directed by Koushik Kar
Group: Kolkata Opera
Premiere: December 25, 2015