The mobile theater of Assam is something that has not stood the test of time but has also survived the brutal attacks of the Covid-19 pandemic that has wiped out many of the popular cinema halls. The mobile theater scene in Assam is getting stronger and the people of Assam are flocking to theater groups and artists.
Mobile theater in Assam is similar to what we know as live theater production but with some differences. Here, the theater company performs as it travels from place to place. The stage is placed in large stadiums or playgrounds and is designed and constructed in a portable, portable and transportable manner. Productions realized in mobile theaters emphasize entertainment and are generally full of action, romance, conflict, passion and high drama.
The idea of mobile theaters is deeply rooted in the Assamese culture and lifestyle. It always has been and always will be. People in this region not only appreciate the incredible amount of hard work that goes into making any show a success but are also aware of the fact that most of the people involved in these groups work primarily out of passion as the financial reward is little. Therefore, people pour a lot of fun into appreciating and appreciating the herculean task that goes into making these shows an impressive success.
My latest experiment in mobile theater in Assamrepeat:
Last week, I was really drawn to watch one such production by one of my dear friends. The last theater show I saw was ten years ago. After that, although I often felt like revisiting a local group, the idea never occurred to me. This time, however, the repeated requests of my friend, I decided to obey my feelings, because it became an experience! We watched a production of ‘Rajmukut’ at Dispur College Football Stadium in Ganeshguri and the play was “Birikhor Birina”.
Before going to the show, my friend and I talked a lot about what the name of the play means. Although we thought of higher ideas and concepts that it could refer to, it turned out that the name of the play was born from the name of the two main characters of the story. Birikh was a legend, Bir was a legend. The title means, Birikh’s Birina. The play is penned by Rajdweep who is also credited with writing and composing the beautiful title story of the play. The famous characters Birikh and Birina are played by popular Assamese actors Utpal Das and Debashree Gogoi. I never expected to see so many people at the end of the show.
All about the play Brikhor Birina:
The story revolves around a young village boy, Birikh, who is headstrong and in love with Birina. Unfortunately, he never had the courage to speak to his heart and doesn’t even know it exists. On the other hand, Birina is a devoted daughter to a hardworking father. Her father decides to get Birina married to a goon (hilariously named Unmad Ranjan Hazarika), posing as a businessman and impressing her evil and deceitful aunt, Madhurima Borpujari. Madhurima’s plan is for Birina to lose all her wealth after marriage and shower her son. However, things don’t go as planned as the Birikh lands are caught up in their conspiracy. What happens next is what the play is about.
The logistical wonders of mobile theaters:
Although theaters have been around for centuries, Assam’s mobile theater is nothing short of a logistical miracle. Just to imagine that all the setup including the performance stage that is expected to serve multiple instruments and allow for dance numbers and action sequences gives me goosebumps. Add to that the fact that the same stage is expected to hold more than three shows of two hours each and that of the restoration, and you understand the technique behind it to stand firmly. Every time the actors walk on a narrow plank and make their dance steps with ease and ease, I can’t help but stare in awe. My heart was in my mouth every time the protagonist fought a bunch of villains and they jumped and jumped and hit each other like they were fighting with a sword. When I entered the tent and took a closer look at the entire structure, it appeared to me that the arrangement was anything but rock solid. Many pieces were coming out. The wood gave out, the stage shook and moved whenever the actors walked through certain parts. However, it never affected their performance. I would run away with myself if I was asked to perform on a similar stage. I don’t even want to think about other logistical aspects like green room, electricity, sound design etc.
For the uninitiated, Assam’s mobile theaters are divided into two parallel stages. A scene appears in one of the stages and then the next scene appears in another in preparation for the first stage of the next scene. During the song and dance, the difference between the parts of the song and the specific stage used to express the same is exploited even more innovatively than in dramatic scenes and most of the time by using taking advantage of the presentation. One thing that absolutely blew me away with the whole process was how quickly the characters changed into different costumes and still looked perfect.
The actors and their performances:
That brings me to the shows. I am really at a loss for words to praise the performance enough. To act energetically for two hours and not forget a single word of dialogue was mind boggling. Remember, there are no replays. Just to think that these characters do the same for six hours, back to back, every day was even more confusing.
Utpal Das is a popular face in Assam and for all the right reasons. His performance was the backbone of the entire play as he appeared in every scene of the play. It’s romantic, it’s funny, it fights like tomorrow, and then it shows its heart in tragedy. His performance in front of a crowd in an airless tent was good enough for the audience to stick to the rickety plastic seats. Even their hearts rejoiced in him at certain times. Need I say more?
Debashree Gogoi as Birina was no less. It was her pure beauty and pure heart that would make a simple boy like Birikh fall in love with her. The way she switched between different looks and the level of comfort she portrayed in the avatars, that too on short notice, was amazing. Her sensuality in the song and dance routine left the audience in awe.
I didn’t get the name of the actor who played MLA da but his performance was good as the two leads. Sometimes it was better. He was the comic backbone of the story and without him, the play would have lost a lot of luster.
Instruction and technique:
I loved the direction and the setting. The lighting was natural and added a lot to everything happening on the screen. I would go so far as to say that it not only contributed to the mood of the proceedings but helped to suspend disbelief. The drama aspect can be seen in the scenes of Birikh being shown in prison or the scenes that appear at the bus stop. The flow of the story was natural. The writing falters in certain parts and some dialogue is repetitive that could easily have been avoided, but none of that takes away from the fun of the drama and the craftsmanship built into the experience.
A final thought:
I have to admit that this was an experience that closely resembled cinema therapy. The only thing it lacked was different camera angles which is impossible. For every other cinematic quality and trope, the makers had an answer. There were even a few overlaps where something was happening in one place and at the same time, something related to that was happening somewhere else. This was an amazing achievement in both storytelling and execution.
The mobile theater of Assam is not only a matter of pride and a cultural symbol of the state, but also a study of how cinema can be transformed into live performances, techniques, talent, and the support of loyal audiences. For those who have not experienced this spectacle up and down, I urge them to seriously watch at least one play in this theater season that has just started and will continue until the rains fall in May.
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