Mandrake trapped – A Play

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Mandrake Trapped - A play

We share this play ‘Rise of the local hero‘ by Subhadeep Banerjee which explores the intricate web of loyalty, betrayal, and crime in 1960s Calcutta as Lord Mandrake faces accusations that unravel dark secrets from his past. A gripping tale of power, revenge, and the pursuit of justice.

Scene 1: (Central Calcutta 1960, at the Entally home of Alexander Mandrake, Lord Mandrake – as he is known, is talking to a visitor named Priya Sen).

Sen: “Calcutta has given me a new life, a new meaning, after the partition riots. But after all that got over, I never expected some criminals to try and harm my little boy.”

Mandrake: “Did you lose your husband during partition?”

Sen: “Yes. …. In this city, I am a self-made woman. Today, I have fame, wealth, and prosperity, but sadly, no security for my family.”

Mandrake: “Why did you go to the police? Why did you not come to me?”

Sen: “I had faith in the law. But today that trust is broken. They let off my son’s kidnappers just like that!”

Mandrake: “Hmm. It is time for you to have powerful friends Miss Sen.” (forwards his hand, but Sen is uninterested).

Sen: (in a forcing tone) “I need you to give me justice Mr. Mandrake. I want those men killed; I am ready to pay WHATEVER it costs.”

Mandrake: (shakes his head in contempt) “Oh, what have I truly done to earn such disrespect? You don’t offer friendship or loyalty. You don’t even call me Lord Mandrake! You have never visited me before today! What makes you think I will murder for money?”

Sen: “I need you to give me justice……..LORD MANDRAKE (submissive tone). I always knew that when all else fails, people come to you. (interrupted)”

Mandrake: “Hey wait a minute!…..Look at Shantigopal out there, and look at his brother Benugopal. They have been with me since the time they were kids. You know what they have offered me?”

Sen: “What?”

Mandrake: “Loyalty. Yes, Miss Sen, loyalty. If you make powerful friends who are loyal to you, then any thug who threatens your business, or your family, will himself make powerful enemies. And, in this city, no one dares make an enemy out of Alexander Mandrake.”

Sen: “What can I do for you Lord Mandrake?”

Mandrake: “Consider me a family friend. That will be all. Benugopal, drop Miss Sen home and see what needs to be done.”

Benugopal: “Sure, Lord Mandrake.”

Sen: “I shall forever be in gratitude to you Lord Mandrake. Goodbye.”

(As Bengugopal and Sen exit, Shantigopal approaches Mandrake)

Shantigopal: “Lord Mandrake, we need to speak to Premnath. My accounts tell me a lot of his dues are pending.”

Mandrake: “Send for him; tell him Lord Mandrake inquired about his health. Did my message reach Ms. Das at the Writers Building?”

Shantigopal: “Yes, Lord Mandrake. Ehm, Benu was asking about next week’s match.”

Mandrake: “He needs to play well, but not well enough to win. The winner is already decided, you know. Don’t worry, I will take care of Benu, like I always have done. All right Shanti, see you tomorrow.”

Shantigopal: “Goodbye Lord Mandrake.” (starts to walk away and then suddenly returns)

Shantigopal: “Ehm, sorry Lord Mandrake, but did you inquire about that jewel with Miss Sen?”

Mandrake: “No, not so soon. But, I will.”

Shantigopal: “I hope whatever we have heard about that jewel is true. But will she part with it?’

Mandrake: “I will make her an offer she cannot refuse! So long Shanti.”

(Scene ends)

A scene from the play "Mandrake Trapped"

 

Scene 2: (The next day at Lord Mandrake’s home, a longtime friend and close confidant tax inspector Romila Das is paying a visit).

Das: “Good morning, Lord Mandrake. It is such a pleasure to see you. I did receive your letter from Shantigopal.”

Mandrake: “Good morning. What do you think of my proposal?”

Das: “It is getting tough these days Lord Mandrake.”

Mandrake: “What do you mean?”

Das: “These babus in Writers Building are of a new breed. Some can still be controlled with cash, but a few are idealists.”

Mandrake: “Until they meet Lord Mandrake!” (grinning).

Das: “The current home secretary Mr. Bhaduri is no spring chicken idealist. He has let loose a few undercover sleuths on you Sir. Sadly, one of them is my nephew Shabor.”

Mandrake: “Don’t worry, Romila madam. Bhaduri and his sidekicks will soon bite the dust! But please bring your nephew to me.”

Das: “See, the smuggling of the precious stones through the post office, is getting risky.”

Mandrake: “Shantigopal knows his job madam. Of course, he is a postmaster by the day and a master fraudster by the night!”

Das: “Sir, there are rumors from the GPO that Shanti may be transferred soon!”

Mandrake: “That is why I insist you keep the P&T joint secretary close to us. Keep his pockets warm!’ (Benugopal rushes in).

Benugopal: “A man from the police force wants to meet you. I refused, but he insists that he must see you now.”

Mandrake: “I, kind of like impatient cops. Is this the one you were referring to Romila madam?”

Das: “Not sure Sir.” (A man walks in and gets past a protesting Benugopal).

Mandrake: “Yes, how can I help you, Sir?” (Mandrake offers to shake hands, the man just shows his police ID).

Man: “Shabor Dasgupta, sub-inspector, Special Branch.”

Mandrake: “Oh, you must be a very special inspector! Why don’t you sit down, please? I am glad that you are here to pay your compliments to me, Mr. Dasgupta. Romila madam speaks very highly of you! Benu, get Mr. Dasgupta something to drink.”

Dasgupta: “Ah, she’s here already? No thanks, I don’t drink. I am here on duty, not to pay you compliments.”

Mandrake (to Romila): “They all have the same tone the first time they walk in here. (To Shabor): Why don’t you sit down please?”

Dasgupta: “My tone and tenor are not servile to your crime-laced tonic, Alexander Mandrake. I have come here to warn you…”

Romila: “Ehm, all right Dasgupta, I am getting late for office. Do you mind dropping me off? Shall we get going?”

Mandrake: ‘Wait! Let me understand exactly why did you come in here?”

Dasgupta: “To ask you about the gold coins that went missing from the Writer’s Building post office and your role in the theft. We know that you benefited from..(Mandrake cuts him short with a slap; Dasgupta slaps him back).

Mandrake: “There was a time, where I could have skinned you alive for this! Did you see that Romila?

Das: “Yes, I saw it! (in shock).

Mandrake: “GET OUT of HERE both of you!” (Romila and Dasgupta walk away, and Mandrake bangs his fist, helped out by Benu).

(On their way, Romila and Shabor talk). Romila: “What the hell is wrong with you? Why did you slap Lord Mandrake, of all people? He could put you into a LOT of trouble!”

Dasgupta: “Give me a day or two, and I shall bring him in; I can bell that fat cat Mandrake!”

Romila: “You are INSANE!’

(Scene ends)

Another scene from the play Mandrake trapped

 

Scene 3: (The following night, at the Amherst Street police station, the officer in-charge Mr. Prakhar Rudra is busy with a prized catch).

Rudra: “So, Bengal tiger, prowling alone near the Writers Building? What is your name?”

Dasgupta: “Shabor.”

Rudra: “Give me your full name and address right now or else I will knock your brains out!”

Dasgupta: “Your constable nearly did! He has got a sledgehammer of a hand.”

Rudra: “And, where did you get this amount of money from?”

Dasgupta: “I earned that money through hard work!”

Rudra: “Oh really? What kind of hard work; bank robbery?

Dasgupta: “No, no.”

Rudra: “Or pick-pocketing?”

Dasgupta: “It is the fruits of my labor!”

Rudra: “Oh, are you a drug peddler?”

Dasgupta: “No! It IS my salary!”

Rudra: “This much salary? You think I am a fool, right?”

Dasgupta: “(slowly thunders out while displaying his ID): “I am a police officer!”

Rudra (shocked and then picks up the ID and takes a look): “Constable Das, did you not search this person?

Constable Das: “No Sir.”

Rudra: “But why? “Do you mind taking a look at this?”

Constable Das (picks up the ID, takes a look, and is shocked by what he sees): “Special Branch?”

Rudra: “Now Mr. Dasgupta, tell me what exactly were you doing in that area?”

Dasgupta: “May I suggest, you contact the home secretary Mr. Bhaduri to find out?”

Rudra: “That we will do, but why do we have to trust you? These types of police IDs can be easily made up for a few rupees!”

Dasgupta: “I was keeping an eye on the Writer’s Building post office.”

Rudra: “And, why so?”

Dasgupta: “To see if any known criminals visited that area at night. The postmaster is a suspect in a case.”

Rudra: “The Amherst Street police station does not have to believe you. We shall contact Lalbazar the day after the Puja holidays are over.”

Dasgupta (bewildered!): “But that is after a week!”

Rudra: “So be it! Why hurry? From tonight, you be our guest in the lockup room, my dear fellow! Take him away Das.”

(Takes him away and returns to speak to Rudra).

Constable Das: “Sorry Sir, but I acted upon some information received from Entally!”

Rudra: “Entally? Oh, you mean, from Lord Mandrake?”

Constable Das: “Yes Sir. This Dasgupta was meddling too much there.”

Rudra: “Hmm, I see. But he mentioned Bhaduri. So, we cannot keep him for a week. Anyway, keep him cool, and do not record the arrest.”

(Das acknowledges and walks out, scene ends).

Scene 4: (About a week later, sub-inspector Dasgupta is free and back on his feet. At the Special Branch office he is questioning postmaster Shantigopal).

Dasgupta: “Yes, my dear postmaster! I hear that you are a comedy writer? Tell me more about yourself!”

Shantigopal: “Actually, my health is not so good. How I wish, I could take voluntary retirement.”

Dasgupta: “Retirement?”

Shantigopal: “I have chronic constipation, Sir.”

Dasgupta: “You sounded like you have cancer in your bottoms! Your belly troubles and your post-office work go hand in hand!?”

Shantigopal: “Sir, yes I mean, too much gas, acidity, and bloating I suffer from. But what to do Sir? It is hard to resist the hilsa and also the pabda. (trying to distract) Sir, have you tasted the Golbarir kosha mangsho? Hehehe, Sir, it is indeed very special!”

Dasgupta: “Have you ever tasted the meal in this Special Branch lock-up? Why did the letters go missing?”

Shantigoapl: “Please accept my written apologies. The handwritten postal code ‘700019’ looked more like ‘700017’ and that is why it went to Beckbagan, instead of Ballygunge.”

Dasgupta: “Did you not know that ‘Ironside Road’ the delivery address, is located in Ballygunge and not in Beckbagan?”

Shantigopal: “The clerk must have put it in the wrong mailbag.”

Dasgupta: “Given your state of ‘health’ and disinterest in postal work, I should advise your boss to transfer you out to a less hectic…”

Shantigopal: “Transfer?”

Dasgupta: “Please, I am not used to being interrupted! One more time, and you will SURELY not be constipated!”

Shantigopal: “Sorry Sir.”

Dasgupta: “Why, what is so bad about a transfer? What special interest do you have in THAT post office?”

Shantigopal: “Dear Sir, no problem. You could have me transferred wherever you like. Sir, on a different note, are you not missing your bowler hat today? You looked really smart with that on; like a true detective!”

Dasgupta: “Shantigopal, you are quite a character; making small talk with the police! Do you wear a headscarf at work? Hats are meant for outdoors.”

Shantigopal: “No Sir, no headscarf for me, but I use a wet towel to keep my head cool. And Sir, I am only a small man, how could I engage in big talks, hehehe?”

Dasgupta: “That we shall find out soon! Now, can you tell me how exactly you know Alexander Mandrake of Entally?”

Shantigopal: “Alexander? The great?”

Dasgupta: “Alexander he is, but not a great one. My sources tell me you visit him often; in Entally. My question is, why?”

Shantigopal: “Sir, there must be some mistake. I have never been to Entally.”

Dasgupta: “Oh really? So, even without visiting him or knowing who he is, you audited his accounts?” (produces a small booklet).

Shantigopal: “I am sorry, but this is not my handwriting.” (Dasgupta places some envelopes)

Dasgupta: “But according to the forensic lab, it matches with your postal entries! How, very comical indeed!”

Shantigopal: “Ehm, I mean….there must be some mistake!”

Dasgupta: “Mistake? None at all. Because, unlike the corrupt cops, I round up only the REAL suspects.”

Shantigopal: “I have no idea what you are talking about?”

Dasgupta: “You can’t be seriously saying this! You have been his unofficial accountant for the last three years.”

Shantigopal: “May I explain?”

Dasgupta: “Oh you can? Well, let’s hear it! I HAVE ALL my time for you!”

Shantigopal: “Actually, Lord Mandrake has known me from the time I was ten. He had good connections during British times. We lost our parents during the partition riots. He took us in and looked after us.”

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Dasgupta: “Ah, and now you serve him to pay back his debt?”

Shantigopal: “Right.”

Dasgupta: “And, that includes stealing gems from Chatterjee & Sons as well, right?”

Shantigopal: “No no, please these are false accusations.”

Dasgupta: “Hmm, as false as your Entally connection!”

Shantigopal: “No Sir, I mean yes Sir!”

Dasgupta: “Do you intend to cooperate? I would like a simple yes or no.”

Shantigopal: “I simply don’t know what are you talking about?”

Dasgupta: “You do accept that this account book is written by you right?”

Shantigopal: “Well, I mean, perhaps…yes.”

Dasgupta: “And, you also accept that you steal gems from shipments and send them off to some other post office and get them back to your Lord Mandrake.”

Shantigopal: “Dear Sir, I must compliment you for what a gem of a detective you truly are! But have you ANY proof of this? I have an idea. Why don’t you join us? And you will have a few gems of your own!”

Dasgupta: “You think I am easy pickings, right? Perhaps that is why you had the Amherst Street police station arrest me? It was YOU who asked them, isn’t it? Come on in Mr. Prakhar Rudra and constable Das” (As the two march in, Shantigopal turns PALE). “Officially, they are now suspended, but unofficially, assigned to me for this case, thanks to Mr. Bhaduri” (smiling and teasing).

Shantigopal: “Well, Sir, ehm….I mean..”

Dasgupta: “Constable Das, would you like to say anything? Can you identify this man?”

Constable Das: “Sir, everything is on record now. I acted on his instructions and arrested you.”

Rudra: “Please Mr. Dasgupta, we will cooperate. Please do not punish us!”

Shantigopal: “Sir, can I make a written statement? Will that reduce my punishment? And what about my younger brother?”

Dasgupta: “Oh great. That was easy. Come along with me all of you.”

(all exit, scene ends).

 

Scene 5: (At the home of Lord Mandrake, he is talking to Romila Das).

Das: “Dear Lord Mandrake. I am sorry to hear about Shantigopal’s arrest. I think you need to find a good lawyer.”

Mandrake: “You think you can no longer help me, is it? Are you only a fair-weather bird?”

Das: “No no Sir. I am forever in debt to you. But with your accountant’s arrest, the police could get really busy against you.”

Mandrake: “If ever a day comes when Alexander Mandrake will be forced to climb the stairs of the police headquarters to plead his case, I will shoot myself first before seeing the light of such a day.”

Das: “Sir, I think it is time for you to use your political connections. I know you don’t like politicians, but what to do? Can we send Benugopal to meet the ruling party president to plead your case?”

Mandrake: “Only if he were around! I have not seen him since his brother’s arrest.”

Das: “And what about that businesswoman Priya Sen? I heard she is in possession of some family jewel which you desire very much?”

Mandrake: “Yes! That could really change our fortunes. But I won’t steal it or take it by force. I want to strike a deal with her at some stage.”

Das: “You know your strategies best. But we need to do some immediate damage control due to Shanti’s arrest.”

(in walks Priya Sen)

Sen: ‘Good morning, Lord Alexander. I need to talk to you.”

Mandrake: “Good morning to you. How can I help you?”

Sen: “Could you lend me some money at low interest? This is for my business.”

Mandrake: “Of course! Well, I hate to ask this, but do you wish to keep a collateral?”

Sen: “Well, if I have to then I will, but what…(interrupted by the sudden arrival of Prakhar Rudra and constable Das).

Mandrake: “Oh, what a surprise! Good morning boys, what brings you here?”

Rudra: “Sir, we have some bad news for you. We have been suspended!’

Mandrake: “Why?”

Rudra: “Orders from above, and unofficially reassigned to watch over you.”

Mandrake: “What the hell is that supposed to mean?” (in walks Shabor Dasgupta).

Dasgupta: “May I explain?”

Mandrake: “How dare you come in here!” (tries to reach for his revolver, but is prevented by Rudra and Constable Das)

Dasgupta: “I am here to arrest you on charges of theft, fraud, and conspiracy. I have a full confession from Shantigopal!”

Mandrake: “Oh, you think you can prosecute me based on THIS evidence? What a joke!”

Das: “Shabor, this is ridiculous! You cannot arrest Lord Mandrake just like that! What value does Shantigopal’s confessions have?”

Dasgupta: “Perhaps, you are getting scared for good reason, right? Mandrake will spill your beans after all! And I have more on Mandrake. Come on in Benugopal.” (Benugopal walks in).

Mandrake: “Where have you been Benu? And, why are you taking instructions from this person?” (Benugopal takes out a picture and holds it in front of Mandrake)

Benugopal: “Can you identify this man Lord Mandrake?”

Mandrake: “Maybe, or not.”

Benugopal: “THEN LOOK! What happened on this date 20 years ago in Watgunge? Is this the man whom you shot and killed?”

Mandrake: “It was so long ago, I cannot remember! And even if I did, so what? The man struck me! He disobeyed my orders!”

Benugopal: “I found out recently about our family, thanks to Inspector Dasgupta. That man worked for you; didn’t he? Are you listening?”

Mandrake: “If I must?”

Benugopal: “Yes! You MUST LISTEN!”

Mandrake: “All right I am listening!”

Benugopal: “Father was NOT killed in the partition. It was YOU Lord Mandrake! And, what life did you give me after that? In boxing, I could have become a star, a somebody, instead of being this NOBODY! But again, it was YOU who made me a paid loser!”

Mandrake: “Look, I am sorry for what happened to you, but I did not kill your father. You could ask your brother Shantigopal.”

Benugopal: “You are DISGUSTING, Mandrake.”

Dasgupta (takes out his gun and points it at Mandrake): “Without Benu showing me the accounts, you will still roam free. I am arresting you pending trial, also for the murder of Benu’s father. Mr. Rudra, take this man away! (Rudra and Constable Das oblige; Mandrakes reluctantly goes with them).

(Miss Sen gets up and approaches Benu takes a jewel out of her bag and gives it to Benu): “It is time for a change of fortune for you. Let this family jewel of mine, go to the most deserving one. Take this and make the most of it and become a WINNER!

Benugopal: “What is this thing?”

Sen: “The kind of stuff, DREAMS are made of! Local Hero – go, live your life and make it better for all around.”

(End of play).

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