While Nader Nimai, an opera in two parts, captivated the mostly elderly-Bengali-speaking audience over the weekend, the show-stealers were the men who enacted women on stage. To find men doing the roles of women in this day and age was intriguing.
Panchanan Bari, who plays the role of Chaitanya’s mother, Sachi Devi, has been acting since 1952 when he was just 17 years old. Now in his seventies, he continues without a break and is overwhelmed at the response to his “female roles”. He has seldom been recognised as a man. Biswajit Majhi plays the role of Chaitanya’s wife, Vishnupriya in the opera. Amit Roy does a cameo as Jyogmaya Devi as a reincarnation of goddess Durga while Chandan Banerjee enacts the role of a female beggar.
It’s a large group, he points out, of 45 people travelling together and comprises make-up men, musicians and helpers besides the actors. It was a conscious decision to confine themes to Hindu religion, myth and epics, he informs. The troupe has played out themes from the Ramayana, Sri Krishna Leela, Kangsha Leela and so on. Here in the state capital the group portrayed the life of “Nimai” in the first part, till he abandons home to become a sanyasi and in the second part the life of the sanyasi as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.