A toytown in doom

Horror of War

The aftermath of war and its implications have been depicted on stage time and again. However, the intensity of portrayal of the issue and its technique have changed over the years. It was therefore impressive to see the use of video installations, props such as rod puppets and movable stage design, but the story of the play ‘Khilona Nagar’ was not just
about these.    

In the darkness of a room what comes across as lit up are the TV screens. The video running on these screens show a man approaching a car followed by a blast. A dummy of a body wrapped in plastic is then shown on stage, being pulled up by a chopper. It is certain that the narrative talks about ‘war’ and its ‘after-effects’ but what the same tries to achieve in the modern age is mystifying.

Directed by Suman Mukhopadhyay with the National School of Drama’s Repertory Company, the play tried to reiterate issues that have been talked about several times. The depiction of apathy of those affected by war was also something that is common knowledge.

What was impressive, therefore, was the use of light and sound techniques to create an effect of a town bereaved and bereft of happiness of any sort due to war. This depiction of dystopia (imaginary place where life is extremely bad) is at times over the top. The use of body movements without dialogues in certain scenes stands out as a positive approach. In the scenes, the use of dolls by prostitutes makes for a visually appealing scene. But later, when one witnesses too much song and dance, the purpose of the play appears defeated. Instead, the play’s duration could have been cut short and the story made crisp.

Even though the non-linear motion of the story from the novel would have been a challenge for the director, the stretched emotions of sorrow don’t appeal to the audience much. The presence of the central character of ‘Windcheater’ is quite mysterious and is surprisingly crafted well to suit the absurdity of the narrative.

The acting is flawless. Be it the prostitutes or revolutionaries, each actor stands out as a living character. Even in the depressing tale that the director attempts to depict on stage, and manages to do so, the artistry of the actors draws all the applause. The after- effect of the performance, however, is not so depressing and the fine line between the story and the reality is well maintained.

The costume designs by Tanmay Gupta deserve a special mention. His craft assisted the actors in not just being in the character but also standing out as individuals in the story with equal significance.        

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