November 11, 2017

‘Mary Kom’ : Play Punches to Glory

Every evening, ‘Mary Kom’ enters the ring on Assam’s mobile theatre arena and mesmerises the audience with her power punches and her riveting story. This has been going on since August 9 and will continue till April 13 next year across the northeastern state.

Welcome to the world of Assam’s mobile theatres, known as ‘Bhraymaman’ across the state. More than 30 companies embark on a journey throughout the state, usually in August and continue till April. This year, Abahan Theatre’s marquee play is based on the Olympic boxing medallist Mary Kom. Written by Abhijit Bhattacharya, popular Assamese actor Prastuti Parashar portrays the role of the champion pugilist from Manipur in the play.

Abahan Theatre producer, Krishna Roy says the response to the play has been tremendous and going by the fact that the villagers know very little of Mary Kom, it is rewarding.

“In spite of not knowing much about Mary Kom, it is really encouraging to see villagers come out in large numbers to watch the play. Mary Kom’s story is about simplicity, grit and determination. People find it very inspiring and could relate it to theirs,” Roy said.

His grandson Rubul Das says Abahan Theatre has already staged shows in Barpeta, Nalbari, Baksa, Kamrup districts among others. About 1,500-1,600 people have been turning up for each show, he says. The tickets are also reasonable with the costliest being Rs 150.

Mary Kom is already immortalised in print and on celluloid – her 2013 autobiography, ‘Unbreakable’ and an eponymous Bollywood film, featuring actor Priyanka Chopra in the title role. Every year, theatre aficionados of Assam wait with bated breath for the surprise packages each company has up their sleeves.

The subjects of the plays are diverse mythology, Greek tragedies, Shakespearean tales, plays based on novels of Assamese and other writers, to subjects like sinking of the Titanic, Anaconda, the Gaisal train tragedy, Lady Diana and the 9/11 attacks. The modern mobile theatre concept in Assam is the brainchild of Achyut Lahkar, who founded the Nataraj Theatre Company in 1963. Pathsala in lower Assam is considered as the home of the roving theatre movement.

Kohinoor Theatre, formed in 1976 by Ratan Lahkar, set the ball rolling on the new trend of plays based on global themes, with the portrayal of the sinking of the Titanic, based on James Cameron’s 1997 Hollywood blockbuster. The result was obvious. It was the biggest hit in the history of Assamese theatre. The special effects, coupled with excellent music, brought new dimensions to the state’s theatre.

The depiction of the ship colliding with the iceberg in its fatal crash, the landing of the helicopter and the overall illusion of the ship on stage, brought international acclaim. Kohinoor has also staged adaptations of Cleopatra, ‘Iliad-Odyssey’, ‘Ben Hur’, Mahabharata, Ramayana, ‘Hamlet’, ‘Othello’ and ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’.

Tapan Lahkar, who manages the theatre, is confident of carrying forward the legacy of his illustrious father Ratan Lahkar, who passed away earlier this year.

“My father was the backbone of Kohinoor Theatre. Now it is up to us to carry forward his legacy,” he says. ‘Rail Pothor Ejoni Suwali’, ‘Best of Luck’ and ‘Siyor’ are the plays Kohinoor is staging this year.

Among other companies, Bhagyadevi Theatre is celebrating 50 years of its inception, while Hengul Theatre is showcasing plays such as ‘Boliya Draupadi’, ‘Ei Sohoror Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Mafia Aru Hoondori’.

Prantik Deka