Reviews of Shesher Kobita

Reviews of Herbert



New York Times
Storm Advisory: Cyclone of a Life on the Horizon
By Nathan Lee
"And now for something completely different. “Herbert,” a mad, messy and frequently amazing epic from India, features many of the qualities you expect from Bollywood: garish verve, dizzy excess, punishing duration, wild leaps in narrative tone and structure. But that’s the simple part.."
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Herbert. 2006. India. Directed by Suman Mukhopadhyay. Screenplay by Mukhopadhyay, based on the novel by Nabarun Bhattacharya. With Subhashish Mukherjee, Bratya Basu, Sabyasachi Chakravarthy, Lily Chakravarty. Herbert tells the kaleidoscopic saga of Herbert Sarkar, an idiot savant in Calcutta who incites the wrath of the International Rationalist Society with his successful business enterprise, "Dialogues with the Dead." Rife with allusions to classic Hollywood and to directors from Satyajit Ray to Jean-Luc Godard, Mukhopadhyay's debut feature is an astounding, encyclopedic parable: part magical-realist fable, part allegory of cultural imperialism. Shot in flashy reds and twilight blues that recall the Technicolor of MGM musicals, this wittily self-reflexive film features a remarkable lead performance by Mukherjee as the film's visionary madman. 142 min.
Thursday, December 11, 2008, 8:00 p.m. (Introduced by Mukhopadhyay)
Friday, December 12, 2008, 6:30 p.m. (Introduced by Mukhopadhyay)
Saturday, December 13, 2008, 2:00 p.m.
Sunday, December 14, 2008, 5:00 p.m.
Monday, December 15, 2008, 4:30 p.m.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008, 8:45 p.m.
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The Hindu, Bangalore

"Suman Mukhopadhyay, in his complex narrative style, uses Herbert brilliantly as the pendulum, which moves back and forth in time, capturing a period and juxtaposing it with its ideology and social ethos. Thus, the film not just covers the life of the protagonist, but also the city which has travelled through the times, governed by different ideologies. In this highly stylistic film, Suman Mukhopadhyay uses some brilliant techniques which gel amazingly well with the narrative".


Deepa Ganesh


The Telegraph

"Mukherjee employs a range of cinematic, dramatic devices in the film. Flashforward-flashbacks (parents, childhood) to Brechtian alienation (father behind movie camera). And strong influences of several European masters, especially Fellini is clearly evident. But despite such 'educated' references, somehow he never lets his ideas or storytelling become 'alien' or elitist. Maybe because he manages to keep his film grounded, rooted to our own culture-specific milieu, utilising all its banal characteristics, colloquialism and linguistic slang (profanities bit too excessive though) with passion and flamboyance".


Mandira Mitra


The Statesman

"In Herbert, the film, literature meets theatre meets cinema to lead to a form that's a delicious carnival - a never-ending series of snapshots that continually push and threaten to rummage the fragile membrane that separates the world we know from what remains unknowable".


Chitralekha Basu


Sangbad Pratidin

"Ritwik would have embraced Suman after watching Herbert".


Subodh Sarkar


Herbert will have 10 screenings in Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York as the part of the program Contemporasian during December 11-17, 2008.
Herbert 2006. Directed by Suman Mukhopadhyay. Screenplay by Mukhopadhyay, based on the novel by Nabarun Bhattacharya. With Subhashish Mukherjee, Bratya Basu, Sabyasachi Chakravarthy, Lily Chakravarty. Herbert tells the kaleidoscopic saga of Herbert Sarkar, an idiot savant in Calcutta who incites the wrath of the International Rationalist Society with his successful business enterprise, "Dialogues with the Dead." Details...

Excerpts from the reviews of Teesta Paarer Brittanto
"A saga of the Teesta talks of a system that enslaves people and is one of the most remarkable plays produced in a long time".

"Teesta Paarer Brittanta is a must-see. Even with a 30-member cast, everyone performs well, exuding a rare sense of team-work."

The Telegraph
"Titas Ekti Nadir Naam -Adaita Mallabarman's novel to Utpal Dutt's theatre , Ritwik Ghatak's film - three autonomous, extraordinary creations. Suman's Teesta Paarer Brittanto will remain as an instance like that". (Translated from original Bengali)

Ananda Bazar Patrika
"Just think, isn't the intellectuals of modern India is not asking the same question (which the play examines)? Isn't Medha Patekar is speaking alike? …watching Suman's play naturally gives remembrance of Ratan Thiyam's colour scheming". (Translated from original Bengali)

"Watching the play, I realized that this is not just seeing visuals or hearing sounds, but immersing oneself in a relentless flow of life". (Translated from original Bengali) Rituparno Ghosh in Editorial

Excerpts from the reviews of Mephisto
The Statesman

"The cream of Kolkata's young theatre persons came together to produce a masterpiece where ideology and aesthetics, agitprop and art were inextricably fused."


Subhoranjan Dasgupta



"Suman Mukhopadhyay's technique is to hurl lots of scenes at the viewer, gradually allowing an epic, ensemble pattern to emerge."


Abhijit Ghosh Dastidar


The Times of India

"Best of Bangla stage after 22 years."


Sudip Ghosh


Kolkata This Week,

"… watching Mephisto is an experience …. Umpteen journeys and continious dialogues between the Third Reich and our own present skilfully and almost unobstrusively laid bare before the audience."


Mrinal Sen


Pioneer, New Delhi

Presented by Kolkata's new experimental group Tritiyo Tirtha (literally, 'the third connection') under the baton of the young thespian Suman Mukhopadhyay, it produced a brilliant blend of highly imaginative fantasy elements, followed by a pure comedy that excelled by visualising Kafkaesque imageries.


Kalantak Lalphita operates at the level of a beautifully evolved visual burlesque. The story depicts the imaginary turmoil of the eighth-generation descendant of a businessman who had supplied thousand sheep to the British troops for fighting against Tipu Sultan. But his dues have remained unpaid till date owing to the labyrinthine red tapes.


UK Banerjee


Excerpts from the reviews of Raktakarabi
Hindustan Times
"Symbolic and metaphorical"

The Telegraph
"Suman Mukhopadhyay's vision of Raktakarabi came closest to matching Tagore's revolutionary stagecraft. …it could become for this generation what Sombhu Mitra did for his a half-century ago."

Excerpts from the reviews of Man Of Heart
Berkeley Playwright Channels Bengali Bard in New Production
By Marcus Wohlsen

The stage is empty, except for a wooden doorway, a strip of linen, and a rough piece of fabric hanging from the rafters. The lights go up, and the set's cold sparseness gives way to the warmth of a lone voice, singing.


Sudipto Chatterjee appears in the doorway dressed in simple white pants and smock. His feet are bare. Two musicians, one playing a hand drum and the other a traditional two-stringed instrument called the do-tara, accompany Chatterjee's rich baritone. He sings a song composed by Lalon Phokir, an itinerant musical mystic who roamed the countryside of colonial Bengal throughout the 19th century. The Bengali lyrics are projected in their English translation on the fabric screen overhead.


"There's a Man in the Heart, atop a throne of light," he sings. "Tell us, O Teacher, of what he looks like."


Lalon spent most of his 116 years seeking this man of the heart, the spirit of the divine that, in his songs, suffuses every human body. Chatterjee, an assistant professor in the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies at UC Berkeley and a 2004-2005 Townsend Fellow, has himself focused much of his career on seeking Lalon. Chatterjee's self-penned one-man production, "The Man of the Heart" premiered to packed houses during its two-night run in September, marking a culmination of that search.


What Chatterjee found is that the truth about Lalon is slippery. His biography is elusive, his beliefs fluid. Yet within that very ambiguity, Chatterjee believes, lies Lalon's bracing relevance to a world torn by religious strife.


Chatterjee's fascination with Lalon began during his childhood growing up in Kolkata (Calcutta). A singer from the countryside passed by the Chatterjee home every day singing the songs of Lalon. Chatterjee taught himself these songs with the help of his father's record collection.


In his early 20s, Chatterjee met a fellow Lalon aficionado and soon-to-be fast friend, Suman Mukherjee, today one of India's most influential young directors. Mukherjee, a Townsend Center artist-in-residence in September 2005, directed Chatterjee in "The Man of the Heart," deploying the same mix of minimalist set design, music, and multimedia that have characterized his larger productions in India.


Over tea the day after the second show, both men said their desire to create a performance about Lalon came from a need to rescue him from a mindset they believe has transformed their hero into a "feel-good icon."


In Kolkata "Lalon is celebrated, but for all the wrong reasons," Chatterjee said. The urban intelligentsia of India, he says, have claimed Lalon as a folk-hero progenitor of Indian secular democracy. That reading, he said, strips Lalon of his complexity and authentically Indian spirituality. "Seldom there is an honest attempt to recognize why he is so good," he said.


In "The Man of the Heart," Chatterjee moves back and forth between the voice of Lalon and the Lalon scholar. In the guise of the latter character, he observes that Lalon could have been no democrat, since he did not know what democracy was. Democracy was an imported concept, the colonizer's ideology later appropriated by the colonized to achieve their own Western-style notion of freedom. Lalon, Chatterjee said, was the "last prophet" of a different kind of liberation, one based in authentically Indian spiritual ideals.


In Lalon's lifetime, Hindu and Muslim fundamentalists chastised Lalon for gleefully synthesizing both religions to form his own body-centered theology. Today Hindus and Muslims both claim Lalon as their own.


"The Man of the Heart" suggests that not only is the historical record vague on what religion Lalon officially professed, but that he played the trickster to ensure history could never pin him down. "The Man of the Heart" interweaves contradictory accounts of Lalon's biography, his family, and his religious affiliations through a dizzy mix of narration, archival documents, and video footage from contemporary Bengal to illustrate the fundamental ambiguity of Lalon's identity.


In the context of India's ongoing and often violent conflicts between Hindus and Muslims, Chatterjee believes Lalon's syncretism holds an urgent message for today's audiences. "Lalon is talking about the reconciling of so-called Tantric Hindu belief systems with Islam, which are so irreconcilable from outside," Chatterjee said. By locating spirituality within the physical body, he says, Lalon creates the possibility of a universal identity that undermines the religious divisions fueling violence around the world today.


"The kind of divinity Lalon is talking about that resides within this mortal frame is something that we all need to hear and learn from," he said Chatterjee and Mukherjee have not decided whether to assemble a Bengali version of "The Man of the Heart" to perform in India. They say the script would need to undergo significant revisions for a Bengali audience, which unlike an American audience would come to the popular figure of Lalon with several preconceptions.


Mukherjee especially is no stranger to controversy in Bengal. His politically charged "Tales of the River Teesta," based on the novel by Debesh Roy, tells the story of poor rural Bengalis displaced by a government land-reform program. The play directly criticizes Bengal's long-entrenched left-wing government, which led to cancellations of scheduled performances across the Bengali countryside. A caravan taking the play to Bangladesh encountered police roadblocks.


While they mull the possibilities, Chatterjee and Mukherjee have several projects keeping them busy. Mukherjee has left Berkeley for Kalamazoo College in Michigan to direct "Nagala-Mandala" (Play with a Cobra) by Girish Karnad. Chatterjee is at work on an essay about the last Indian play produced by UC Berkeley, an elaborate Sanskrit production staged in 1914. He will also direct the West Coast premiere of "Harvest," set to debut on campus in November 2005. The play, by Indian dramatist Manjula Padmanabhan, tells the story of a dark future when multinational companies harvest the organs of poor Indians for rich American customers.


Like "The Man of the Heart," Chatterjee and Mukherjee's other plays take up one of their favorite themes: the hidden power of those whose voices aren't heard, or, as they like to say, "the moss under the stones of history." Much of the power of the unheard in India lies in their embrace of a spirituality that defies the strictures of established religious orthodoxies. That is the power of Lalon, and, they believe, the power of theater that upholds a similar impulse to defy any form of ideology.


"Let's read the myriadness of Lalon in its myriadness," Chatterjee told an audience during a post-show discussion of Man of the Heart. "Let the rainbow be a rainbow. Otherwise it becomes white light."


Excerpts from the reviews of Nagamandala
Kalamazoo Gazette
By Gordon Bolar
"Captivating 'Naga-Mandala' is feast for eyes, ears...theatergoers in the Nelda K. Belch Playhouse listened intently and seemed enthralled as the story quietly unfolded before them."
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