Houston Durga Bari Drama Festival 2019 Outplays Previous Years

BY SANCHALI BASU

SUGAR LAND: Houston Durga Bari Society (HDBS) takes pride in hosting the “Dipika Dasgupta Memorial” Bengali drama festival for the past 18 years. The festival attracts drama groups from all over the country. This year was no exception. Literature, dance, drama, music, art runs in the veins of Bengalis and in comparison with other Indian communities, drama particularly ranks high in Bengalis.

This year’s festival boasted 10 plays over 2 days May 25-26 at the Sur Auditorium in the Durgabari complex. Odissi dance presentation by the Kalaangan School, and the ceremonial lamp lighting were part of the inauguration. The first day featured 5 plays.

The first play, a production of the local Tagore Society of Houston, was predictably Tagore’s “TotaKahini.” It brought forward the harmful effects of the ever burdening system of “caged,” formalized education, which holds relevance to date.

“Ranaangan,” staged by the Detroit, Millits group, very effectively dealt with the inner battles of a woman photo journalist who has been covering war torn areas over the world and the conflicts with her partner who is also a journalist but cannot seem to understand her passion for being out in the field. She finds a new perspective when the fiancée of their editor, through her simplistic outlook encourages her to follow a more peaceful, compassionate lifestyle.

“Mahua,” my personal favorite, was a unique musical ballad-like presentation by the DFW group. Based on ancient folklore, it was a very high energy dramatization of the predicament of a young gypsy girl who stole the heart of many a lover, affecting the livelihood of the gypsy tribe, ruled by her father. Grim circumstances ensued due to betrayal, respect and loyalty, leading to a very gripping ending.

“Love Story #5” was a short and sweet enactment of how life’s responsibilities and duties change the dynamics of a love affair from the exciting to the mundane, but still carries its charm in an old fashioned way.

The presentation by “Ebong Theatrix” of Greater Washington, DC pulled at the heart strings of the immigrant audience who make a continuous attempt to stay connected to their homeland roots.

“Beshya,” by “Brishchik” of Seattle, Washington brought the painful, real life story of Suzette Jordan, an Anglo Indian based in Kolkata, brutally gang raped on the streets of Kolkata, to life. It showed how the detestable, vile mentality of some men can make women react. It provided a very heavy dose of how women are still viewed by society, even in this day and age of “Women’s Rights.”

The next evening started with a very refreshing, “Aabaar Chollo Gupi Bagha,” by CTBA of Austin. The children’s drama was a take-off on the legendary characters Gupi Gayen and Bagha Bayen made famous by Satyajit and Upendra Kishore Ray. Every Bengali grows up with these magical powers possessing characters, solving every world problem. They have been assigned this time to deal with modern day environmental, political and war related issues and it is interesting to see how they came through with their amazingly scripted lines in rhyme. It was impressive to see second generation Bengalis memorize and render their lines in rhyme so impeccably.

“Mukur,” audio drama by Friends of Boston included some local talent and cast a spell of suspense over the goings on surrounding the suicide of a woman. Interestingly, every family member at a get together celebrating the engagement of a couple seems to be mysteriously tied to this woman. What follows leaves the audience wondering.

“Aamaar Hiyaar Majhe,” by Kathalay, Dallas played around the guilty emotions of a radio jockey, who may have been involved in the mysterious death of a singer girl friend, who comes to haunt him through the radio waves.

“Banarer Thaba,” by Swagata, Houston left the entire audience guessing when a family is provided with an ape paw which can grant 3 wishes. They did not realize at what cost those wishes will be fulfilled, and was very well enacted by the 4 cast members.

“Mamonir Chhobi,” the concluding play by Ebong Theatrix, Washington DC was a nice interplay between an elderly lady and a younger maidservant, both forced to stay away from their children, and how the bond of loneliness connects the 2 characters.

The festival was well organized with food stalls serving delicious snacks and dinner prepared by the HDBS kitchen crew. Stalls with saris, jewelry and free tea samples were very popular.

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