Beyond Hattamala: Bangalore Little Theatre revives Badal Sircar’s classic comedy

The English adaptation of Badal Sircar’s Bengali play Hattamalar Oparey will be performed at Ranga Shankara on May 12, as part of BLT’s ‘Shaping Lives’ fundraiser

4 min readMay 11, 2024
Although a children’s play, people from different age groups have enjoyed watching Beyond Hattamala in the past

By Reema Gowalla

One of theatre veteran Badal Sircar’s popular Bengali classics, Hattamalar Oparey, has found a renewed vigour in Bangalore Little Theatre (BLT’s) Beyond Hattamala — an English adaptation of the 1977 play. This is the story of two petty thieves — Kenaram and Becharam — who after a failed attempt at burglary try to escape the site by jumping into a nearby river only to land up on an unusual land where the concept of money does not exist. Directed by Murtuza Khetty and Deepak Mote, Beyond Hattamala is returning to the stage at Ranga Shankara on May 12 as part of a special initiative, the proceeds of which will go toward BLT’s ‘Shaping Lives project.

As a playwright, Badal was known to dabble in socio-political themes as well as comedy and wit in his dramas. Hattamalar Oparey is also a funny play that holds a mirror up to society. The plot follows the (mis)adventures of Kena and Becha in the new ‘strange land’. Their humorous yet thought-provoking exchange with the people of the land beyond Hattamala form the crux of the story. The performance stokes imagination with music and dance.

Directors Murtuza Khetty and Deepak Mote

Since its premiere on Children’s Day (November 14) last year, Hattamalar Oparey has already completed nearly 30 shows, and May 12 will mark its curtain call. Speaking about how it all began, Murtuza told TheatreRoom, “I had watched an adaptation of Badal Sircar’s piece some time in 2023, and since then I was thinking of bringing this play to the stage as BLT’s annual children’s production, which we do to raise funds for a charity. We felt there is an important message in this play, and that people from all age groups would enjoy watching it. The inhabitants of the ‘strange’ land, where the two thieves land up, work together and happily share all the available resources among themselves. There’s no concept of currency in that place. This, I think, sends out a good message for children, especially in today’s world where everyone seems to be caught in a rat race, trying to make profits. Thus, we started working on this play.”

The 75-minute performance features an ensemble cast, including Abiraami, Ajai Kesavan, Akash, Anusha Bhaskar, Catherine Vincent, Disha M Alva, Ela Singh, Jaya Pandey, Keya Kumar, Kusum Rao, Niranjan Nair, Parvati Ramchandran, Pushpa S Venkatesha Murthy, Saachi Pimprikar, Sanjana G Menon, Siddharth Surana, Satguru Saran Vashisht and Sowmya.

A scene from the play

The original play was created more in the style of street theatre. While Beyond Hattamala is not a street play, the makers have revived the timeless comedy with minimal props. “We have tried to bring it as close to a street play as possible on stage. There’s no big set or anything, just minimal props. We have worked with an ensemble cast, so whatever changes take place on the set and in between the scenes are visible to the audience. Sometimes, actors themselves become the props. That’s the approach we have followed while designing the play. To date, we have carried out 27 shows, including those at schools and public auditoriums. More than 5,000 people have watched this play. This year, we are raising funds for our special programme, called ‘Shaping Lives’, the proceeds of which will go toward schools that support underprivileged students.”

This initiative aims at “empowering underprivileged youth by equipping them with essential life skills, fostering emotional intelligence and assisting them in managing their emotions with effective coping strategies”.

Hattamalar Oparey’s crew comprises Akash Vaidya, Jaya Pandey, Khwahish Choudhary, Kusum Rao, Poornima Kannan, Ranjitha Seshadri, Saachi Pimprikar, Shraavan Rai, Somanna AG and Tarun Kotturkar. Props for the show are Smitha VK (Hasthakala Creations) and Saachi. Ishita Bose Sarkar and Rema Vijay have composed the songs, while dance is choreographed by Ishita and Saachi.

Catch shows of Beyond Hattamala at Ranga Shankara on May 12 (3.30pm and 7.30pm) You can book your tickets here.

Beyond Hattamala is an English adaptation of Badal Sircar’s Bengali classic Hattamalar Oparey