By Navjyoti Dalal

Watch this horror play based on a Tagore tale, set in the early 19th century, with a ghost widow for a protagonist

What if your disappearance is taken to be your demise? And your return is deemed paranormal? Given that the time is 19th century, and an accessible police and forensics belong in the distant future, how then is one to justify their existence? Exploring these themes is Jibito Mrito, a play adapted from Rabindranath Tagore’s short story Jibito O Mrito. Based on a lesser known work by the master poet, musician, artist and philosopher, the play’s protagonist is a widow, Kadambini, who is presumed dead by her in-laws after she suffers a spell of unconsciousness. Upon waking up and returning to her marital home, she struggles to prove that she is alive.

(Top left) Nikita Puri plays a childless widow in Jibito Mrito. The cast also includes Vishwajit Shinde, who helped the play’s director Shrikant Gadge adapt the Tagore short story for stage

(Top left) Nikita Puri plays a childless widow in Jibito Mrito. The cast also includes Vishwajit Shinde, who helped the play’s director Shrikant Gadge adapt the Tagore short story for stage

The idea of taking up a Tagore story and adapting it to stage came from Ingenium Theatre Studio founder Shrikant Gadge’s trips to Kolkata. “The kind of iconic stature that Gurudev (Tagore) enjoys really touched me and drew me into his world. That’s why I started reading his stories and came across Jibito O Mrito,” says Gadge, who has directed the play. For co-founder of the theatre studio, Vishwajit Shinde, though, it was the artistry of the Nobel laureate which he found most compelling. “Tagore’s stories are very haunting, they have a certain melancholy to them. At the same time, they very vividly paint a picture of Bengal of that era. It was a very charming place, in terms of culture, people, costumes,” says Shinde, who is also a part of the cast.

While it is set in the Bengal of late 1800s, Gadge believes that the story is relevant to present times as well as it touches upon the idea of a powerless existence in an indifferent society. “I understand that on the surface, it looks like a slice from a time bygone, given the mentions of Sati, the misery inflicted on the widows, and so on. But, at its core, this is a story of someone who is struggling to prove herself to society, when society is relentless at not believing her. This is something that strikes a chord with many,” says Gadge. The adds that this will resonate especially with the youngsters who take drastic steps only to seek external validation.

Unlike the well-known nuanced dramas by Tagore, Jibito O Mrito has shades of horror to it. The genre comes with its own set of challenges, especially when rendered on stage. “Horror is rarely attempted in theatre and is also difficult to achieve. It is a thin rope to walk. If you go even slightly overboard, it may become comical,” says Shinde, who worked with Gadge on the adapting the story for stage. For Nikita Puri, who plays Kadambini, the biggest impediment was her stage fright. Puri, a school teacher by day, took to theatre to overcome her fear of public speaking. As she was learning stagecraft and coming to terms with the discipline of an actor, she received this role. “I won’t say it was easy to play Kadambini. I had to research a lot about the condition of widows in that era,” says Puri. To inhabit the character and understand the era better she was recommended by the director to also read other works by Tagore. “It is difficult to walk in the shoes of someone who is constantly insulted and ill-treated. And then I came to know that Seema Biswas had done a solo act on the same story. It was natural to feel intimidated,” says Puri, who plays a childless widow in Jibito Mrito, which will be staged early next week.

WHERE: Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Auditorium, Ghole Road

WHEN: June 11, 9pm-10.30pm

CALL: 7263986877 / 9145759524

COST: Rs 200

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