I seldom visit public theatres. I dislike the atmosphere, the setup, and the usual type of plays selected and, above all, the compulsory confinement in a stuffy hall for three hours at a stretch. But I am not a puritan certainly. I do watch the performance of a good play whenever it is worth seeing. I make my choice very carefully. I consult newspaper reviews. I am guided by the opinions of those whom I respect. I do not go to see any particular ‘star’; for me “the play’s the thing”.
There was an announcement that the great master, Sisir Kumar Bhaduri, was to appear in the play “Sri Madhusudan”. Here we had a rare combination; a great actor in a good play. A theatrical show, to my mind, has one advantage over a cinema; I could book my seat in a leisurely manner. The halls are not so much over-crowded. And emotional reactions are almost simultaneous while watching the acting of the master artiste.
So I could give myself up to the enjoyment of the play without being distracted by too much noise of people coming in or going out. When the curtain went up, I relaxed myself for a good two-hour enjoyment.
The play was certainly worth seeing. Sisir Bhuduri was simply superb. What voice, what expression, what movements, what rendition! It was not a play but a slice of life lifted out of the real world on to the stage. He was the great Madhusudan himself brought to life; the genius of the poet dominated even the tragedy of the man. I had never heard or seen such a wonderful performance of the inner tragedy of a great genius. Recitations from the verses of great poets by Sisir Kumar were a treat to hear. The supporting cast was competent.
As to the play, the passionate scenes might have become theatrical but for the restraint shown by the great actor. Taken as a whole, it was a worth-while show. The play pleased the eye and the ear, and there was none of the crude that so often offends against decorum and good taste.
What is perhaps more important is how I felt when I came away. Two distinct impressions stood out. First, the acting of a master. The resonant voice and intonations that overflow the auditorium, the firm animation of the gestures, individually and collectively overwhelmed me. Secondly, the great poet whose life was reproduced was made more real to me than if I had only read his masterpieces. Michael was not only a great poet but a great man who lived a full, crowded and intense life. With all his many weaknesses, Madhusudan was a man: “Take him all in all; we shall not see his like again”. The performance remains to me — an unforgettable experience.