Sukhanghsu as Creon (Center)
I had the pleasure of watching Sukhangshu play as Creon in the Bangla play ‘Raja Oedipus’ at Muktadhara Auditorium on both 5th and 6th March 2016. Perhaps you will wonder why I went on 6th as well. Well, I missed the first 20 minutes’ show on 5th as I couldn’t leave office in time. But I managed to catch up with it the next day and got the chance to understand the play better.
Here is a little bit about the play. Raja Oedipus is a Bangla version of Sophocles’ Greek classic ‘Oedipus, the King.’ The translation from the original to Bengali was done by late Dr. Sisir Kumar Das. The original play ‘Oedipus, the King’ was first performed around 429 BC and is widely regarded as Sophocles’ masterpiece. Of his three Theban Plays that deal with Oedipus, Oedipus the King was the second to be written. However, in terms of the chronology of events that the plays describe, it comes first, followed by Oedipus at Colonus and then Antigone. Oedipus the King tells the story of Oedipus, a man who becomes the king of Thebes while unwittingly fulfilling a prophecy that he would kill his father, Laius, and marry his mother, Locasta.
Raja Oedipus was enacted this time at Muktadhara by Backdrop Theater and directed by Deepak Guha.
I found the play quite interesting and I was amazed to find that even though it is based on a mythological story from a different culture, the adapted form and the way it was played did not look alien at all. All the actors looked very natural in their different roles. The colorful make-up worn by the actors, their masks, their slow, gliding movements and the varying stage lights were all very graceful and dignified and gave an ethereal feel to the play.
To be honest, I am not really a theater buff and I generally go out to watch a play when Sukhangshu is one of the actors or when he insists on my seeing certain plays which he considers too good to be missed, like Sekhar Sen’s ‘Kabir’ which played in Delhi’s February 2016 NSD Theater Festival.
The best part of watching Sukhangshu perform on stage, as far as I am concerned, always comes after the play ends, when the viewers come up to him to congratulate him and sometimes the thrill gets prolonged for a few more days when rave reviews on his performance appear in the newspapers, as in Anjon Kanjilal’s ‘Asukh’ where he played a lead role and Bapi Bose’s ‘Seventeenth July’ in which he played the role of a Police Officer. Sukhangshu has been into theater since his teenage years and by God’s grace, he seems to be getting better and better.
Sukhangshu and I came to know each other about 26 years ago in a company where we worked as Marketing professionals and our work had nothing to do with theater. But a few years after we got married, we decided that it would be better if he just followed his heart and that’s how he turned into a professional actor.
In 2009, Sukhangshu played in Amal Allana’s ‘The Metropolis’ during Delhi’s Ibsen Festival. Just 2 days prior to the show, he met with a serious accident during the rehearsal and fractured his left arm. On the D-day, with just a few hours to go, his stomach became severely upset due to the heavy doses of antibiotics and painkillers. His condition kept on worsening and none of the medicines that were prescribed seemed to work. It was in this state that he played his role of Usman Mirza while our daughter Suroshri and I watched anxiously in the house-full Kamani Auditorium. The play turned out to be completely different from the ones I had seen earlier. Never in my life had I witnessed such a grand production played out on stage in this manner, replete with so much high-tech wizardry. It was for the first time in my life that I saw sub-titles flashing on stage. We were all absolutely wonder-struck! Sukhangshu told me later that after every scene of his, he had to rush to the washroom.
Finally, when the play ended, one of his mentors remarked excitedly, “Sukhangshu did an excellent job. He is, I think, one of the best actors now and I don’t think he is even aware of it! It is just as well that he doesn’t know.” From where did Sukhangshu get his strength come from? This was what I asked myself that day. It must have been God, I told myself quietly. It couldn’t have been anyone else!
A couple of years ago, when our only earthly possessions were the clothes on our bodies and the dreams that throbbed in our hearts, we had once gone out together to see a movie. While eating popcorn during the interval, I remarked casually, “One day, perhaps, we would eat popcorn while watching one of your movies.”
Caught off guard, he exploded into laughter and said, “Me in movies? How very unlikely! I don’t think I am that good!”
But in 2013, God heard our prayers and gave us something really wonderful to celebrate about. It was Shoojit Sircar’s movie Madras Cafe’ in which Sukhangshu played a small role as an undercover agent. The camera focused on his face in a close-up shot for only about 2 minutes, but for us and all our friends and family members, that was a historical moment, something to cherish all through our lives. Here is that shot!
Sukhangshu in a scene from Madras Cafe’ (Sitting beside him is late Jayanta Das of Vicky Donor fame)
Sukhangshu subsequently got another chance in 2015 to shoot for a film. It was for ‘Hai Dil,’ along with the immensely talented and highly acclaimed actor Benjamin Gilani!
This was followed by a prominent role as Suraj Singh, a villain, in the TV serial ‘Wah Chaudhary’ on DD Kisan. Sukhangshu says that for a long time he had dreamed of playing a bad guy a la’ Pran and Jeevan of Bollywood and this serial fulfilled his heart’s deepest desire. Take a look at the scene below. It’s my personal favorite. Do you see here what I see? A poisonous snake spewing its venom with angry, blazing eyes!
Sukhangshu in a scene from ‘Wah Chaudhry’
Now here is something that will bring a smile on your face. Several years ago, in the Bangla play Pratham Partha, as soon as Sukhangshu appeared on stage in a very unfamiliar getup, our little Suroshri clapped, laughed and shouted loudly, “Oh, wow, see what Papa has turned into!”
For a few seconds, the spell was broken and the audience sitting in the B.C. Pal Auditorium turned away from the spotlight on the Sutradhar (the storyteller) and stared at his daughter. It was a very awkward moment, but as the well-known cliche goes, the show must go on, and this play too went on and was highly acclaimed by one and all…
Sometimes, during my idle moments, I shut my eyes and allow myself to daydream about how it would feel like on hearing someone announce breathlessly, with a pause in between, “And the Oscar goes to …Sukhangshu Chatterjee!” I know that’s a bit too far-fetched at this stage, but it gives me a very beautiful feeling inside. Who knows, even this dream might become real one day…
Given below is our family pic which was clicked by a friend at the end of Raja Oedipus…
Wish you all the very best, Sukhangshu, and of course, many, many more years of mishap-free, exciting, and challenging roles !
To read more about Sukhangshu Chatterjee’s work, check out his blog: