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Karnavati: Real life canvas of rural Rajasthan in Bengali play

The play was inspired by a short story by novelist and poet Amrita Pritam that speaks of a dream of bitter-sweet passion of unrequited love.

Dilip Guha | New Delhi |

Delhi’s popular Bengali drama society, Aamra Kajon, staged a full-length Bengali play Karnavati on the occasion of their 33rd Annual Day in association with the Bengal Association Delhi at Muktadhara Auditorium, Gole Market on 29 December. The play was inspired by a short story by novelist and poet Amrita Pritam that speaks of a dream of bitter-sweet passion of unrequited love.

Chanden Sen, a renowned playwright has suitably portrayed the character of the Rajasthani village girl Kusumbi in the play. She dwells in her own dream world, consisting of river Banas as her friend and imaginary hero Hira Singh as an ideal man. In short, Karnavati is a real life canvas of the conformist society of rural Rajasthan. Kusumbi has grown up hearing the story of Karnavati and Hira Singh from her mother. She shares her dreams and pains, talks and plays with the Banas River. This story revolves around mainly three women ~ Nanda, Kusumbi and Malli ~ depicting their intense struggle in a patriarchal society. Despite of being betrayed by every aspect of life they fight back and never succumb to the situation. Strong self-belief and stand alone faith never to be defeated are the essence of this story, which reflects empowerment of rural Indian women.

In terms of performances, Sristi Das, daughter of eminent actor Palash Das, played the lead role of Kusumbi skillfully. Her impeccable performance anchored the play from the moment she sets foot on the stage. She has kept the flame of her passion for theatre burning bright since her childhood. She said, “We had a vibrant atmosphere of theatre in our family I’m the fourth generation of family doing Bengali Theatre in Delhi. Although this is my fourth stage show, this is my first as a lead role.”

“My character ‘Kusumbi’ is shown as village girl who dreams to live life with her own wish. The character conveys the message to dream and to live, to stand against the society and back up own decision and be brave and courageous. Karnavati is a metaphor used to symbolize the character as she too fought bravely just like queen Karnavati” she added.

The Rajasthani flavour was evident in the attire of all the characters. Songjukta Bagchi as Rukma, a kathputhli storyteller, showcases the folklore of Karnavati alongside the play. Her entertaining narrative is peppered with humou and the audience is in rapt attention as she narrates life of Kushumbi. Shankar Roy as Kailash Rawat, Nivedita Sircar as Malli and Beethi Das as Nanda were most impressive among the artists. The play was an example of audio visual splendour. Playing to a packed house, the two-and-a-half-hour performance was very intense. It also reflected excellent team work. Director Rabishankar Kar, as usual, created some magical moments on stage with the lighting, sound and costume. It was obvious that the play needed a bigger stage.