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Malayalam play review – “Aboobackerinte Umma Parayunnu”

Echoes of struggles


‘Aboobackerinte Umma Parayunnu,’ a solo act by Rajitha Madhu, delineates the Kayyur incident through the voice of the mother of one of the victims.

Monologues on injustice:Rajitha Madhu in the play ‘Aboobackerinte Umma Parayunnu.’

It happened almost seven decades ago, and to the new generation, it hardly exists. It is as if the Kayyur incident has been conveniently forgotten by the post-globalisation world as a tale about class struggle. But actor Rajitha Madhu takes a page out of a now quiescent chapter in the history of Kerala and reminds us that “it is easier to forget; it’s remembering that’s difficult.”

Rajitha’s solo drama titled ‘Aboobackerinte Umma Parayunnu,’ evolves around the death of four young men during the pre-independence struggle at Kayyur, a village near Neeleswaram in Kasaragod district. The sharply etched script emerges through the bold voice of the mother of one of the victims.

Eventful march

The Kayyur episode is a chapter in the history of the Indian independence movement that motivated class struggles in Kerala. The Karshaka Sangham, a solidarity movement of the peasants of Kayyur, pass a resolution against the oppression by the British government, and decide to stage a march to Neeleswaram on March 30, 1941. On the evening of March 28, the police raid Kayyur, torture villagers, arrest many of them and unleash a reign of terror.

The next morning, the villagers stone a police constable called Subbarayan and force him to jump into the river where he drowns. Four youngsters are declared guilty and hanged to death at Kannur central prison on March 29, 1943.

They are Madathil Appu, Koyithattil Chirukantan, Podera Kunhambu and Pallikkal Aboobacker. It is Aboobacker’s mother who comes on stage through Rajitha, as the conscience of an entire people and talks to us, never wavering in courage or lacking in emotion.

The solo drama is a poignant and energy-charged portrayal of politics in Kerala during the last six decades. Aboobacker’s mother, Umma, speaks about the political questions that echo across society, and goes beyond the barriers of time and place.

The play examines the class struggles of 1940s, feudalism and the upsurge against it, various peasant uprisings, the victory of the Communist Party in the 1957 State election, the liberation struggle, the surplus-land struggle, communal organisations today and so on.

Stage presence

Umma is alone on stage but she is strengthened by the ‘presence’ of leaders such as P. Krishna Pillai, AKG, EMS, and so on. There is even a public meeting in which EMS participates, and we hear a brief speech in his own voice!

Umma raises several valid questions, not just about what is past but what is relevant to the present too, thereby creating a timeless clip of theatre. And Rajitha’s immense energy on stage is to be savoured. It never falters as Umma pleads, prays, scolds, smiles, laughs and cries, across the incidents that make her life.

Rajitha who first stepped on stage at 16 has now been on the stage for nearly three decades and has given some 5,000 performances. This performance that Rajitha gave at Kanakakunnu grounds in Thiruvananthapuarm during a book fair organised by the State Institute of Children’s Literature, was the 970th staging of the play.

The play has been written and directed by Karivelloor Murali. Use of real sound tracks of departed leaders is a great idea for such an energy-rich, emotion-charged solo. The voice of EMS resounds twice during the play; the first being a rare sound track from a speech that the leader had made at Kannur for the inauguration of a play based on the movement for Independence. Music was by Madhu Vengara. He also handled the lighting.

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