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Crutch Er Colonel: A brilliantly choreographed historical play

  • Published at 07:48 pm August 8th, 2019
Crutch Er Colonel
A scene from the play Crutch Er Colonel | Facebook

The stage decorations were minimal with two ladders, and the costumes were also minimal in the beginning. The lights and the music were very well done. However, the beauty of this play is the choreography. One should take a lesson from BotTala, in order to know how to squeeze so many historical details in a two hour-long play, just with minimal but realistic choreography

The massively popular historical drama by theatre troupe BotTala, Crutch Er Colonel, was staged last Friday for the first time at Liberation War Museum auditorium in Agargaon. The play is adapted from a novel of the same name, written by Shahaduzzaman, and is based on the life of Bir Uttam Colonel Abu Taher.

For the stage, the play was adapted by Soumya Sarkar and Samina Luthfa Nitra, and it was directed by Mohammad Ali Haider. This adaptation starred Imran Khan Munna, Kazi Roksana Ruma, Samina Luthfa Nitra, Taufique Hassan, Pankaj Majumder, Evan Riaz, M Sayeed, MI Rony, Mahbub Masum, and Nafiul Islam.

The stage decorations were minimal with two ladders, and the costumes were also minimal in the beginning. The lights and the music were very well done. However, the beauty of this play is the choreography. One should take a lesson from BotTala, in order to know how to squeeze so many historical details in a two hour-long play, just with minimal but realistic choreography.

The premise is that a group of thespians have run into the crisis of seeing that their lead actor is missing, the day before they are to stage the biopic on Colonel Taher for the stage. The theatre troupe started discussing  the political history of Bangladesh after the Liberation War, and it is revealed that, initially some are divided in their support for various historical figures of that time. In the course of the discussion they start rehearsing the play, and eventually their rehearsal turns into the actual play, as their own discussions and historical factoids-sharing subsided, it gave way to an authentic depiction of various moments of Bangladesh's history.

What one of the actors had to say

Samina Luthfa Nitra told the Dhaka Tribune Showtime: "While rehearsing the play the actors were having various reactions to the history. Some refused to do a particular act, while others confirm the historical authenticity of the act. What we tried to show on the stage, is that through discussions within a group, this play is being realized. The goal was to show, how the current generation is reading the history of our nation's liberation, and what happens after it; how they perceive it, interpret it, and how they finally accept it. 

"You must have noticed that after a while the actors are not playing the role of discussants, but what happens on the stage is the actual play, which actually began as a rehearsal. Which means that at one stage, the actors are no longer questioning their history. They become at one with the play.

"The difference between the message of Shahaduzzaman, and that of Soumya and Samina is just that, we introduced a theatre troupe discussing the play. It is our interpretation of the novel Crutch Er Colonel, which in itself was the interpretation of Colonel Taher's life," Samina added.

In response to whether the play could have ended at the iconic scene of Colonel Taher's execution, Samina said: " It is a fact that the tragic event happened. We did not want to show the violence of that on the stage. The artistes themselves felt that the scene was not necessary to convey our message. What we wanted to show was his courage, and the inspiration he gave, taking a stride forward while bringing a change."

In response to the preparation that went into realizing this play, Samina said: "Since there are a lot of dialogues, all the actors had to be prepared. This is the 46th staging of this production, but it took us six months to materialize it. However, before any show, we have at least four dress rehearsals. The same team have acted in all the staging of this drama, and we do not bring any changes to it, if we can help it. We never added anyone. Some of the team members left the country. I myself could not act in three or four shows due to a surgery. 

"However, we never added anyone new to the team, even if some had left. This is because this team had gelled well, and if we were to take someone new, then it would take time for that new person to acclimatize with everyone.  

"And we take the rehearsals very seriously, as without it the show can never happen, so we never skip rehearsals. Sometimes we rehearse more than the mandatory four dress rehearsals before the shows. Since it is based on choreography, we practiced our moves on stage for at least one and a half to two hours. A lot of physical exercise is done by the actors before any of the rehearsals. Which means, we gave a lot of importance to our team's physical fitness. We all take care of our fitness together, and it is not as if it is ordered by someone. Everyone does it proactively. These are things which probably makes this show a success," Samina added.