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Safarnama – Mary in her 6 Avatars

Tehnaz Dastoor

Having met the multi-talented Chef Sunshine, i.e. Sanchayita Bhattacharjee at a luncheon a few days earlier, I was invited to view her performance in the play Safarnama on the 20th of August, at the intimate Padatik Little Theater II, located on AJC Bose Road.

There were 40 seats, all occupied by the audience eager to view the play which commenced promptly at 7 pm.

Safarnama is a series of 6 random short acts selected from a variety of plays and play writes, encompassing the assorted lives of the characters - Mary. Thus through the evening, Mary traverses from being an aspiring actress dealing with the semantics of words such as ‘drama’ and ‘theater’, addressing the audience directly, to her final avatar - a sex worker turned wife.

Safarnama was a tightly woven production, ably directed by Mahmud Alam who has recently worked under Lodemierz Staniewski in “The Master Builder” and Vinay Sharma in “Diversion Slash Just Joking.”  The cast consisting of the lead character “Mary” proficiently played by Sanchayita Bhattacharjee was adeptly supported by Sahir Siddiqui and Pratigya Ghosh.

The first chapter sees an in-your-face Mary expounding to the audience, albeit extemporaneously, as she has lost her notes, about the prospects of drama. The next chapter moves onto a reunion of sorts between Mary and her former boyfriend each discovering reasons for their fractured relationship and the sacrifices Mary had made for him are only just revealed. In the third chapter, Mary is met at a café by her oversexed friend Gail, who implores Mary to get into a sexual relationship with her. This is then followed by a violent and rather guttural Mary, dressed appropriately in a hoodie which helps to hide her mannish and intimidating form as she makes her co-passenger increasingly uncomfortable with her belligerent behavior. Mary’s penultimate avatar is of a rather prudish lady taking a ferris wheel ride to overcome her fear of heights and a chance meeting with a stranger turns into a hopeful encounter. Finally, the most complicated manifestation of the character reveals itself through a looking glass, where Mary is at some point a sex worker, raped at the age of 13 and is quickly morphed into a housewife surviving a rather loveless marriage.

Each chapter engages the audience, making them contemplate and think about the lives of the various Marys, and the performance was aided by the sparse set and lighting.

I would highly recommend Kolkatans to go and view Safarnama with fresh eyes as it’s definitely worth the time spent at the Little Theater.