One of the Rabindranath Tagore's biggest literary strengths was to bind emotions and images together. His first lyrical play, “Mayar Khela”, is a prime example, where the wordsmith unfolds a layered narrative just through his songs. It's a boiling pot of youthful romance, excitement and on the other side of the coin, melancholy and yearning. Shadhona, one of the leading cultural centres of the country, staged the production -- one of their most-acclaimed works of recent times -- at the National Theatre Hall of the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy on Sunday.
The seven-scene play is the story of Amar, Shanta and Promoda, and a group of 'Mayakumar' and “Mayakumari' -- illusionists who sort of drive the play forward. Amar and Shanta meet in a garden, and are love-struck, but do not connect. Promoda, on the other hand, is the most beautiful lady in the land, and is aloof to the calls of the heart. She rejects proposals from admirers. Amar, Kumar and Ashok meet in the next scene, and the three express and debate about their own feelings and meanings of love. Promoda is then introduced to the scene by the 'Mayakumar-kumari', and she once again rejects the advances of Ashok and Kumar. Amar, although enchanted by Promoda's beauty, does not speak anything of it, rather returns home in the next scene, where he reconnects with Shanta. In the closing sequence, as everyone is in celebratory mood of Spring, Promoda appears and offers her love to Amar, who is now faced with a conflict of heart. Ultimately, is it Shanta that Amar chooses to be with, and a heartbroken Promoda exits the scene.
The first thing to notice about the production is that it's ambitious. The set and light design have a sense of grandeur, as are the dance sequences. The music by Nirjher Chowdhury and Rokon Emon, is mostly good, except for here and there where the arrangement seems a little jerky. The dance direction, by Amit Chowdhury and Sabbir Ahmed Khan Biju, is also commendable. The use of various styles, from shadow-dancing to aerial exercises (styled like rope-Mallakhamba) to Western genres, and even a UV-light sequence with dancers being invisible and only the white fabric moving on the stage, was done well. The aerial pieces were slightly cumbersome at times, but had some nice moments otherwise. The central cast of actors, three of who have sung the songs, also demanded credit for effort, although it's not the tightest of performances. The dancers, on the other hand, pulled off a long, challenging set of routines rather well.
Overall, the production value of “Mayar Khela” lives up to the high standards set by Shadhona for itself, if not exceed it. Lubna Marium and Ali Ahmed Mukul's costume and set design is fantastic, and is further augmented by creative yet balanced light design by Reaz Mahmud. Although the storyline can be a tad difficult to follow for the casual audience and gets a little slow in the middle, it is nothing short of a treat for aficionados of Tagore.