Odia adaptation of “An Inspector Calls” to be staged today

Debadatta Pati as inspector in Sagar Manthan

By Odisha Story Bureau, Bhubaneswar:

  • Uttar Purush to stage Sagar Manthan today evening at Bhanja Kala Mandap
  • This Manoranjan Das Odia play is based on J B Priestley’s best one An Inspector Calls

Odia play SAGAR MANTHAN(1968), modelled on An Inspector Calls(1945) by J B Priestley, is a play that revolves around the apparent suicide of a young woman called Sandhya Das. In the play, the unsuspecting Pattnaik family are visited by the mysterious Inspector Abadhut Rao. He arrives just as they are celebrating the engagement of Sheila to Bikash. The Inspector explains that he is here to investigate the death of a girl who died two hours ago in the Infirmary after committing suicide by drinking disinfectant. Her name was Reba Das, and the Inspector brings with him a photograph, which he shows to Pattnaik—but not to anyone else.

It is revealed that Reba Dash Smith worked in Pattnaik’s works, from which she was dismissed after being a ringleader in an unsuccessful strike to demand better pay for Pattnaik’s workers. The Inspector outlines that “a chain of events” might be responsible for the girl’s death, and—for the rest of the play—interrogates each member of the family, asking questions about the part they played in Reba Das’s life. We then discover that Sheila encountered Reba Das, where Sheila jealously insisted that she was dismissed. Sheila feels tremendously guilty about her part in Reba ’s death. It becomes clear that each member of the family might have part of the responsibility.

Reba Das then, we discover, changed her name to Sandhya Das—and it is by this name that she encountered Bikash, with whom she had a protracted love affair. Sheila is not as upset as one might expect; indeed, she seems to have already guessed why Bikash was absent from their relationship last summer. He put her up in a cottage he was looking after, made love to her, and gave her gifts of money, but after a while, he ended the relationship. Bikash asks the Inspector, whose control over proceedings is now clear, to leave—and Sheila gives him back his engagement ring.

The Inspector next interrogates Mrs Karuna, who remains icily resistant to accepting any responsibility. Sandhya Das came to her, pregnant, to ask for help from a charity committee of which Mrs. Pattnaik was chairperson. who used her influence to have the committee refuse to help the girl. Mrs. Pattnaik resists the Inspector’s questioning, eventually forcefully telling him that the father of the child is the one with whom the true responsibility rests.

It transpires, to Mrs. Pattnaik’s horror, that Ajit was, in fact, the father of the child, and she has just unwittingly damned her own son. Once Ajit returns, the Inspector interrogates him about his relationship with Sandhya Das. After meeting her in a bar when he was drunk (he has a drinking problem), he forced his way into her rooms, then later returned and continued their sexual relationship. He also gave her money that he had stolen from his father’s works, but after a while, Sandhya Das broke off the relationship, telling Ajit that he did not love her.

The Inspector makes a final speech, telling the Pattnaik, “We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish.” He exits.

After his exit, the Pattnaiks initially fight among themselves. Sheila finally suggests that the Inspector might not have been a real police inspector. Bikash returns, having found out as much from talking to a policeman on the corner of the street. The Pattnaiks begin to suspect that they have been hoaxed. Significantly, Ajit and Sheila, unlike their parents and Bikash, still see themselves as responsible. “He was our police inspector all right,” Ajit and Sheila conclude, whether or not he had the state’s authority or was even real.

Realizing that they could each have been shown a different photograph, and after calling the Chief Constable to confirm their suspicions, Mr. and Mrs. Pattnaik and Biksash conclude that they have been hoaxed, and they are incredibly relieved. Gerald suggests that there were probably several different girls in each of their stories. They call the Infirmary and learn delightedly that no girl has died that night—the Infirmary has seen no suicide for months. Everyone, it seems, is off the hook, even if each of their actions was immoral and irresponsible. Only Sheila and Ajit fail to agree with that sentiment and recognize the overall theme of responsibility. As Pattnaik mocks his children’s feelings of moral guilt, the phone rings.

He answers it and is shocked, revealing the play’s final twist: “That was the police. A girl has just died—on her way to the Infirmary—after swallowing some disinfectant. And a police inspector is on his way here—to ask some—questions.

This play is originally written by J.B Pristly and adopted by Manoranjan Das.

Team Uttar Purush will stage this play on 25th December 2016 at Bhanjakala Mandap under the direction of Dr Prasanna Mishra.

The Inspector character played by Debadatta Pati. This play was staged by this group earlier this year in Rabindra Mandap, where the character and the play was applauded by audience. And after the request of many audience the team is going to stage it again, but this time with a ticketed show.


About the Author

Subhransu Panda
Subhransu Panda, founder and editor of www.odishastory.com, is an author and journalist. After working 10 years as a journalist in Odisha's leading media houses, both print and electronics, he started Odisha Story in 2016. He has 6 Odia books to his credit including 2 novels. He is also heading Odisha's leading publishing house PEN IN Books.