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‘The Begum’s Blunder:’ Oscar Wilde would be wowed

  • Published at 10:50 pm August 10th, 2018
‘The Begum’s Blunder’
A scene from Oscar Wilde’s ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’ adaptation ‘The Begum’s Blunder’ COURTESY

The dialogues were equally representing the melodrama that is fitting in a Mughal court and/or some Sultan’s household.  The real attraction of this adaptation is the eloquence and expression of the actors

The Junction Dhaka’s motto is “where the creative meet.” It is a very simplistic motto on first reading, but great mottos are those which get lived by their writers. Attempts at simply living the motto does not count, as accurate actions based on the words (of any motto) are the ones that touches people’s heart. When I heard The Junction Dhaka will stage an adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s “Lady Windermere’s Fan,” I knew straightaway it will be tasteful production. I guess it could be called a bias, as I have worked with the Junction people for three consecutive years during Dhaka Literary Festival. So, to those skeptics, I request that you kindly go to their Facebook page, and see what other events they are doing. By the time you read this you have already missed the chance of watching “The Begum’s Blunder,” the aforementioned adaptation. You will have to read this review and wait until that fabulous team decides to stage the play again.  However, do not miss the upcoming events they have in store. This review is from my experience of The Junction, and it will remain a testament to oppose all, who are saying arts and literature is dying in Dhaka. This is because in The Junction Dhaka, the creative minds of the country really do meet. 

Let us begin with the stage and the seats. After being treated singaras and coffee by none other than the Bengali poet Sadaf Saaz, the guests are ushered through the glass double doors into a large L shaped space, that may have been a joint living room and dining room before it was turned into the small theatre it is now for The Junction. The seats will keep your back straight, but will not discomfort you. In the bend of the room is the shin length stage, so the audience sits on each ends of the L. I suspected those sitting on the seats right in front of the entrance of this improvised auditorium may be at a slight disadvantage of seeing the actors’ faces when the face the other end. So I sat on the end that faces the stage directly. However, after the play concluded I did not hear one complaint from people on the other ends.

The props on display are minimal, with a couple of sofas, a couple more arm chairs, a nice-looking lamp and its table. The real surprise was the audience who gathered. They were all so well dressed and spoke in eloquent English, with many foreigners in the midst. I felt under-dressed and uncouth in their company. Moreover, hearing the subjects these people were discussing, I was confirmed of my inferiority of knowledge regarding Arts, Literature, current affairs, politics and variety of other topics. I also got the first confirmation of the fact that truly creative minds gather here. The second is the adaptation itself.

If the premise of “Lady Windermere’s Fan” can be expressed in one sentence it may run something like this: one naïve woman suspects her husband is cheating on her and almost elopes with another man to find true love, but she is saved from her elopement by the very woman she suspects as her husband’s mistress right in the nick of time. “Begum’s Blunder,” being an adaptation tells the same story, but in such tasteful fashion that I am not afraid to say that Oscar Wilde will be wowed. He will be proud.

The costumes were gorgeous representation of courtly people, who could easily belong in Mughal Empire or any one of the sultanates that have existed all this time. Jewelry that looks expensive, adorn their costumes. The eponymous fan of the original plot is actually shawl in this adaptation, and the deception done with it, did not lose any of the original cunning imagined by Wilde. Change of rooms were the matter of changing the arrangement of the furniture, and the characters enter through the entrance of the stage itself, and sometimes exit through another room adjacent to the light board set-up. The minimalistic approach to every stager direction will make any Thespian jealous of director Naila Azad’s creativity, because in this day and age even University students want Tk.100, 000 for putting a quality production. Another confirmation of The Junction’s motto.

The dialogues were equally representing the melodrama that is fitting in a Mughal court and/or some Sultan’s household.  The real attraction of this adaptation is the eloquence and expression of the actors. Some of the actors reportedly never acted on stage before. I am secretly depressed to think about the countless hours of practice that have been given by the actors in order to give such flawless delivery of each line. Only one actor was replaced from the first staging of the play, and even if sometimes this new actor’s agitation can be thought as nervousness, I felt it remarkably fits the character, as he is portraying a man who is hiding an embarrassing secret of his wife to protect her at the risk of being suspected of infidelity. They did describe the play to be very ‘intimate’ in the introduction.

No matter how many words I write, nothing will beat the experience of seeing it all in front of you. Therefore, I arduously request all thespians of the country to keep an eye out for any further stage productions by The Junction, or by Naila Azad, or by Jatrik team in any other moniker. Arts and Literature will not die so easily in Bangladesh. As long as this theatre team exists, it will not.