Aschourjo Funtosee

A topsy-turvy tale for a topsy-turvy time

Drama and direction Manoj Mitra

What used to be the Ramayana by the enlightened dacoit Ratnakar became something else in the hands of petty thief Madhav Chandra. Like elite dishes reproduced on street corners, it took on new flavours - saucy, unpredictable, exotic...some say even magical.

For instance, who was it that went to Lanka in search of Sita? Was it Hanuman or Hanumati? If in Bengali the feminine gender of Budhiman is Budhimati and Sriman is Srimati why can't we imagine a Hanuman and Hanumati?

Wouldn't it be easier for a female to get access to the inner chambers of Ravana's Palace? And wouldn't Sita trust her more? Madhav Chandra believed only women can come to the rescue of women. So in this hilarious, topsy - turvy Ramayana pala, called Aschourjo Funtosee, Hanumati travels to Lanka.

Now you may find it difficult to understand whether the Hanumati you see here this evening is the real mythic Hanumati or an actor from Madhav Chandra's troupe. Where does reality end and fantasy begin?

Hanumati for instance finds in Lanka not just one Sita but Sitas in every household. Ravan's wife Mandodari, Kumbhakarna's wife Bajrajala, Bivishan's wife Sarama, are all oppressed, abused and humiliated prisoners of a male - dominated society. But are these characters really from the age of the Ramayana or are they women we meet every day? Our Hanumati can't leap across seas like Hanuman but she has with her a fairytale boat Mayurpankhi in which there is space for more than one rescued Sita.

And the waves of the Lanka shores sing as they ripple away towards the unknown:

"O blue sky, O ocean deep,
Boundless, infinite,
Tell me now,
When can I be mine"

Director's Note:

"Aschourjo Funtosee is in many ways a strange play. It laughs at itself, says what its worst critics may perhaps say.

Right at the start there is a member of the Adhikari's team expressing his doubts that there seems to be in this pala (folk play) "more froth than substance." Even the title Funtosee is really Fun-to-see put together. In doing so the play challenges the audience to not just see but think. Find out if there is meaning behind the fun.

I have used the Puranas for many other plays like Aswathama, Ja Nei Bharatey but the approach here is different.

Aschourjo Funtosee hovers in a neutral zone beyond the realities of time and space. Look at the sets - there has been a deliberate effort to keep it inconspicuous and unidentifiable. Even the costume develops from a medley of historical, regional and social boundaries.

Yes there is blatant farce, madness and colour but through it all emerge some harsh realities. Realities that even the Puranas have chosen to avoid or obscure. Underneath the froth seethes violence, exploitation, rage, tears, resentment, and an undying fantasy of life and love".

ASCHOURJO FUNTOSEE

Adhikari: Samar Das
Sita: Amrapali Ghosh Mukherjee
Mandodari: Mayuri Ghosh
Bajrajala: Krishna Dutta
Sarama: Arpita Sen
Kalnemi: Manoj Mitra
Ravan : Dipak Das
Bivishan: Priyojit Bandhyopadhyay
Kumbhakarna: Soumen Chakraborty
Achari Baba: Subrata Chowdhuri
Prakhar: Dipak Thakurata
Chor: Utpal Chakraborty
Police: Subrata Chowdhuri
Adhikari's team, villagers and guards: Dipak Thakurata, Jyotirindra N Mukhopadhyay, Surjo Chakravarty, Qazi M Hasan, Shankar P Sarkar, Gautam Gayen, Swapan Ganguly, Manabendra Pal

Deer and Swans:

Utpal Chakraborty, Jyotirindra N Mukhopadhyay