Hindu Review of Krea’s play “Thanimai”
DRAMA Apt casting was one of the strengths of Thanimai.
Charming Insouciance: Scenes from the Tamil play, Thanimai.
It is easy to be didactic while talking about joint families. So when asked to review a play about a lonely old man, who ruminates about his past life in a joint family, this writer prepared herself to listen to a laboured joint family versus nuclear family debate. But Krea’s Thanimai (directed by Dheepa Ramanujam), the inaugural play in Brahma Gana Sabha’s drama festival, did not get entrapped in any such dichotomous distinctions. It treated the subject of loneliness in old age with a charming insouciance that was most endearing.
Mani is a 70 year old man, who lives alone, both his sons being employed elsewhere. He is prey to all the illnesses of old age from diabetes to joint aches.
Relief from boredom comes from soliloquies and from recollections of his younger days. Things take a dramatic turn in his life, when he is befriended by Sridharan (Jay Ganesh), who tells the old man to stop wallowing in self-pity and to snap out of his depression.
Acting upon Sridharan’s advice, Mani sets up business as a stock broker, and soon becomes so busy, that he doesn’t have time even for a conversation with his visiting son Raghu (Varadhan Srinivas).
Mani now dresses nattily, lets his hair down and dances a jig with his fun-loving clients.
He even becomes an avid reader of Playboy! The flashbacks that take the audience to Mani’s days in a hugely entertaining joint family set up, provide for some rollicking mirth. Going back and forth in time does not impede the flow of the narrative.
The director is indeed lucky to have found Satish Sattanathan to play the role of the young Mani, for Satish even vaguely resembles (and not just in girth) the portly Naveen Nathan who plays the senior. It doesn’t strain the imagination to picture an aged Satish resembling Naveen. A good piece of casting.
The stolen moments of privacy of the young Mani and his wife Lakshmi (Snigdha Venkatramani), Mani’s anxiety to whisper romantic nothings in Lakshmi’s ears, and the interruptions from elders and children made for delightful viewing. There was no actor who did not play his or her role with élan.
The joint family system had many advantages. It provided succour to everyone, regardless of his/her contribution to the family kitty.
It worked on the principle of ‘All for one and one for all.’ It also provided an emotional cushion, in case one took a tumble in life. But joint families depend for their success on everyone playing his role without question. One misplaced word, and the carefully nurtured edifice comes tumbling down.
That’s what happens in the case of Mani’s family, and it hurts to see his family break up. But it’s hard not to see the logic in Mani’s words either.
By not taking sides, but by pointing to how, with the inexorable march of time many a hallowed institution falls by the wayside, the playwright (Anand Raghav) ensures that the play remains anchored in logic, while touching emotional chords in us.