Bhramyaman Theatre controversy: Plagiarism slur on leading dramatist

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

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Bhramyaman Theatre controversy: Plagiarism slur on leading dramatist

Rangman Das | June 29, 2019 15:31 hrs

• Who said that Ravi Sarma should be put through the “squat-and-stand” punishment routine holding his ears?

• Is Abhijit Bhattacharyya the one who calls all the shots in the mobile theatre industry?

• Who is the journalist who instigated Pranjana Dutta not to work with Bordoichila Theatre?

• Who “stole” the script of “Mahiyashi” from the producer’s residence?

• Is it a conspiracy to finish off Pranjana Dutta’s career or is it a publicity stunt by Rajmukut Theatre?

G Plus carries out a post mortem.

What exactly is happening within the mobile theatre fraternity of Assam – an industry that has earned the respect of the entire country?  An industry that has carved its own niche? An industry with crores of rupees in turnover has always been a profitable sector and the current times are no different. And, despite its immense success over the years and huge popularity among the public, the industry has come under scrutiny and debate purely because of just one name – playwright Abhijit Bhattacharyya! 

Recently in a press conference at the Guwahati Press Club, popular film and theatre actress Pranjana Dutta had dragged in the name of Abhijit Bhattacharyya blowing the lid off the controversy. The topical point of the press conference was the unilateral cancellation of the agreement that Bordoichila Theatre had with Pranjana Dutta – without any notice at that – thereby rendering her a victim.

Why did Bordoichila Theatre do this?

For the 2019-20 season, Pranjana Dutta (of “Mirabai” fame) had come into contract with Bordoichila Theatre for a play produced by Nazrul Islam. Having created ripples the previous season on the Hengool Theatre stage with the play “Mirabai” written and produced by Himangshu Prasad Das, Pranajana was signed up by Bordoichila Theatre for the current season in three title roles of three plays scripted by Abhijit Bhattacharyya. However, controversy erupted on June 12 last after Pranjana had obtained the relevant scripts. Apparently, the current season’s play “Mahiyashi,” set to be staged by Bordoichila Theatre, had more than its share of similarities with the previous season’s play “Mirabai” (staged by Hengool Theatre) in which Pranjana had acted; in fact as many as 29 scenes of Abhijit Bhattacharyya’s “Mahiyashi” had remarkable similarities with Himangshu Prasad Das’s “Mirabai.” The actress, in a discussion with the producer, had mentioned this disconcerting factor. And this supposed “outrage” against the work of Abhijit Bhattacharyya became instrumental in Pranjana earning the ire of the Theatre’s management. In three days flat after the incident, Pranjana’s contract stood null and void and she was informed of the same by two representatives of the Bordoichila Theatre who however could not offer any reasonable explanation for the action.

What did Pranjana have to say?

Apart from being wedded to noted film director Achyut Bhagawati, Pranjana Dutta, herself a well-entrenched and highly respected actress, had this to say: Prior to the promo shoot of “Mahiyashi,” Pranjana had sought the script of the play. However, instead of giving her the script, the playwright Abhijit Bhattacharyya tried to confuse Pranjana with several petty and unrelated opinions. Bhattacharyya also passed derogatory comments terming her as a newbie in the mobile theatre industry. Subsequently, on 12th June, Pranjana managed to obtain the script of “Mahiyashi” and on reading the same found that 29 scenes were similar to the previous season’s play “Mirabai” that was staged by Hengool Theatre. Pranjana apprised the producer of the play of the entire development. However, the producer informed Pranjana that no changes would be incorporated in the script of “Mahiyashi.” Subsequent to this, Bordoichila Theatre unilaterally cancelled the contract it had signed with the actress. The actress is of the opinion that the producer is basically towing the line of playwright Abhijit Bhattacharyya even when it has come to the issue of casting and selection of actors and actresses. She has also brought in allegations of the Theatre’s management putting her in a great spot of difficulty at the very onset of the theatre season and that too, in the absence of her husband.

What did Ravi Sarma say while showing empathy to Pranjana Dutta?

Subsequent to Pranjana Dutta’s contract being unilaterally cancelled by Bordoichila Theatre, playwright Abhijit Bhattacharyya’s role was brought into the realm of discussion and debate by actor Ravi Sarma. Back in 2018, Ravi Sarma had already declared that he would never return to work in the mobile theatre industry and would oppose all those working against the true interests of the industry (including actors) until and unless the high-handedness of Abhijit Bhattacharyya stopped. Ravi had questioned the credibility and qualifications of Bhattacharyya to decide on the choice and remunerations of actors and technical staff.

He had gone on to term as “fools” all those actors and actresses who “sucked up” to Abhijit Bhattacharyya in hope of securing good roles. He had also blamed the lack of unity among the mobile theatre fraternity of actors and technicians as the reason for the continuing high-handedness of Abhijit Bhattacharyya.

Who said, “He (apparent reference to Ravi Sarma) will have to go through the “squat-and-stand” punishment routine holding his ears?”

Having blown the lid of the murky ongoings within the mobile theatre industry, Ravi Sarma has now been hauled up for his obtrusiveness by none other than the veteran and venerable mobile theatre actor, Pranjit Das. Besides accusing him of being a non-actor in the mobile theatre scenario, Das said that because of his uncalled-for utterances, Ravi Sarma should be made to kneel down holding his ears. “Even a punch on his nose doesn’t get him to say his dialogues properly; he himself is not fit for mobile theatre,” said a visibly agitated Pranjit Das on a video that is currently circulating on social media.

Producer in Bordoichila Theatre, Nazrul Islam’s opinion:

With regard to the various discussions on actress Pranjana Dutta (who was contracted for the current season with Bordoichila Theatre) over different media platforms that are currently going on, producer of Bordoichila Theatre, Nazrul Islam recently called for a press conference at Nalbari. According to Islam, for the current season, the Theatre had finalised the staging of three plays written by Abhijit Bhattacharyya. The plays to be staged are, “Moromor Bandhobi Bidaai Diya,” “Mahiyashi” and “Mone Bisora Morom.” Besides famed mobile theatre actors, Mridul Bhuyan and Pranjana Dutta, several other actors and actresses had also been brought under contract. In the meantime, promo materials including banners, posters etc were also put up. Further, the plans and dates for the video recording of a song of “Mahiyashi” were also finalised. In this situation, Pranjana Dutta, without having properly read the play “Mahiyashi,” stubbornly decided not to enact the given role in the play. Hereafter, even after producer Islam’s request to Pranjana to go through the script of the play “Mahiyashi,” Pranajana remained adamant in her decision not to be part of the plays of Bordoichila Theatre. Getting a sense of her obstinacy, the Theatre’s management sent its representative and its editor to Pranjana to covey the decision of cancelling her contract and the duo demanded the refund of the advance money paid to her. Pranjana however refused to refund the money.

Who is the journalist who instigated Pranjana?

The producer of Bordoichila Theatre, Nazrul Islam, has raised the following allegations. In the midst of this whole controversy, a cine journalist visited him at his residence saying that he wanted to read the play “Mahiyashi.” Under the pretext of the same, the journalist took away the script and thereafter instigated Pranjana against enacting the offered role saying that the character she was given did not hold too much importance in the context of the play. Moreover, the journalist also went on to influence the director of Ma Studios, music director Ajoy Phukan, to desist from continuing to carry out the musical requirements of Bordoichila Theatre for the current season. Islam named the journalist as Amiya Talukdar.

Who will act in place of Pranjana?

An actress called Kalpana has been roped in under contract in place of Pranjana Dutta by Bordoichila Theatre. The season will commence of 12th July, 2019.

A twist in the tale: So is this an attempt to finish off Pranjana Dutta’s career or a publicity stunt of Rajmukut Theatre?

The controversy surrounding the mobile theatre industry over the past week has certainly given way to a conducive and constructive atmosphere for both theatre practitioners and audiences. However, is it prudent that things have come to such a pass where a career in mobile theatre of a talented and highly successful actress is on the verge of being destroyed purely because of her pertinent questions raised against a supposedly powerful dramatist? With the big budgets that are involved in mobile theatre productions, is it such a simple matter that a leading actress can be removed from her leading role right at the onset of the season purely on the basis of a complaint made by her? Or was it Abhijit Bhattacharyya’s purposeful attempt to deface Pranjana Dutta’s powerful personality cultivated by her portrayal in “Mirabai” in the previous season, that he has this time written a similar role and attempted to stage the same in “Mahiyashi?” Or again, was it a conspiracy hatched by that mysterious journalist to wean Pranjana away from Bordoichila Theatre at the behest of the management of another Theatre group? Lest we forget: just a few days ago, actress Sunita Kaushik, who was set to work in leading roles by Rajmukut Theatre for the current season had summarily broken her contract to leave this theatre group “for some special reasons.” 

The actress had announced this decision of hers through social media. No wonder, Rajmukut Theatre was on the urgent lookout for an actress of calibre to fill in for their leading roles. After all, Kopil Bora was returning to mobile theatre after 11 long years. But the lead actress was suddenly not available any more. It was in this situation that Pranjana dropped her bombshell at the Guwahati Press Club. And it was the same Pranjana who had created ripples across the state with her role in “Mirabai.” That the same Pranjana would enact an equally belligerent role in “Mahiyashi” with Bordoichila this season had already caught the fancy of theatre lovers. Suddenly however and in dramatic fashion, the entire plans of two gigantic theatre groups of the state changed. Sunita Kaushik left Rajmukut. Around the same time, under controversial circumstances, Bordoichila Theatre unilaterally cancelled Pranjana Dutta’s contract. Within a mere three days, a new poster came up bearing Pranjana in a new get-up and yet the character she’d portray was familiar from the last season. And it was a Rajmukut Theatre poster! It was Pranjana Dutta in a new, big-budget Rajmukut production sporting the character of a commando! We leave the question to the reader: was the entire exercise a conspiracy to finish off Pranjana Dutta’s mobile theatre career or was it a brilliant marketing strategy cum publicity stunt of Rajmukut Theatre? 

Jatin Bora’s opinion:

Actor Jatin Bora has termed the whole development as unfortunate. He has opined that the entire issue could have been resolved amicably by Bordoichila Theatre and Prajana through dialogue and discussion. Bora has virtually implored everyone involved with mobile theatre that they should work in the interest of keeping alive the fair name of this famed industry of Assam so that the public which endears itself to the industry is not disillusioned and the industry’s image is not sullied. To that extent, Jatin Bora has offered an impactful opinion that if Abhijit Bhattacharyya’s scripts are so poor, the producers just need not accept his scripts any more.

G Plus’s conclusions:

1)    Besides organising and addressing a press conference, actress Pranjana Dutta has not shirked from expressing her mind clearly at various open platforms and in front of various journalists.

2)    As in earlier instances, Ravi Sarma has again reiterated his stance against the current situation of the mobile theatre industry while lending his moral support to Pranjana. He is the only actor to have publicly spoken out against the “victimization” of Pranjana Dutta.

3)    The entire theatre-loving audience of Assam is today sympathising with Pranjana Dutta. “Boycott Bordoichila” seems to be a clarion call among them. Majuli, in the meantime, has barred Bordoichila from performing there. Social media is agog with people commenting that Abhijit Bhattacharyya’s plays are best left unwatched.

4)    A section of revered actors have made videos on Facebook condemning Ravi Sarma’s stance and comments. What should this mean? Is Abhijit Bhattacharyya indispensable to Assam’s mobile theatre industry?

5)    While a section of producers keep harping that it is only Abhijit Bhattacharyya’s plays that are popular among the public, plays like Himangshu Prasad Das’s “Mirabai,” Hillol Kumar Pathak’s “Mission Asomiya,” Rajdweep’s “Baoli Mur Priya,” Champak Sarma’s “Radhai Namane Badha,” Pallav Paban’s “Beimaan Bhagabaan,” Mridul Chutia’s “Suryyagrahan” have remained exceedingly successful and popular plays among the masses besides garnering good business.

All this is indicative that Abhijit Bhattacharyya is not indispensable. If drama is good and contextual, it will be received and accepted well by its audience. There are several good and talented dramatists in Assam. Three good plays annually from each of them would fulfil their potential and satisfy their audiences. It is just that producers have to be receptive to their work.

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