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Nalli Aadi Nataka Vizha – Brahma Gana Sabha

Contrived situations

Suganthy Krishnamachari

 

The proverbial mother-in-law would lord it over her daughter-in-law, who would bide her time, knowing that one day it would be her turn to take it out on her own daughter-in-law. And so the cycle went on, until women stepped out of their homes and became gainfully employed. Suddenly, a generation of women, who had been obedient, even subservient to their mothers-in-law, found that when their turn came to be mothers-in-law, they could no longer assert their authority. They were sandwiched between demanding mothers-in-law and their own indifferent, busy daughters-in-law. That is exactly what happens to Janaki (Anandhi), in Goodwill Stage’s ‘Mamiyar’65@hotmail.com (story and dialogue – Kovai Anuradha), which was staged as part of Brahma Gana Sabha’s Nalli Aaadi Nataka Vizha.

Janaki is a harried housewife, who slogs in the kitchen and runs the household, attending to her mother-in-law’s incessant demands, grappling with her son’s laziness and her husband’s meekness. One day her husband decides that enough is enough. So he and his wife pretend they are going on a pilgrimage, but instead disappear, leaving the family in the dark about their whereabouts.

 

 

With the long suffering Janaki gone, the family perforce has to manage on its own, and everyone realises they had taken Janaki for granted all these years. The unfolding of events in the play made it clear that a price cannot be fixed for the contributions of housewives. There was no need, therefore, for the perorations at the end of the play. Another instance of an attempt to spoon feed an audience, intelligent enough to get the message.

It was, however, the acting that disappointed the viewer. Why was there no reaction at all from anyone, when Kalynaraman’s cell phone is discovered on the railway track, and he and Janaki have vanished without a trace? It was blank expression that one got from Pushkala Paatti (Vijayalakshmi), Sankar (Srinivasan) and Gayatri (Jayanthi). There was also the sartorial stereotyping – the moment Pushkala and Gayatri became responsible, they began to wear saris!

A popular theme in Tamil drama these days is the care of the elderly. Kovai Anuradha, perhaps, not willing to be left out, tackled this too, towards the end of the play. But the lecture on the benefits of staying in old age homes seemed like an afterthought. The play had a valuable message,necessary to puncture the myth that housewives are parasites, but it could have been presented through less contrived situations.

Brave attempt

Who is in control of our lives? Is it God? Or do we control our destiny? It’ s seldom that a play addresses these questions, but ‘Namakkul Oruvan’ (story, dialogue, direction – K.S.N. Sundar) staged by Amirtham Gopal’s Gitanjali, asked these questions, prompting the audience to ponder over them too.

Ekambaram (K.S.N. Sundar) is a man who is not quite happy with his lot in life, and who would, if given the chance, indulge in some chest thumping about how he has gone to great lengths to give his children a good life, and who now are self-centred. His friend Venkatesan (Chandru) points out to him that happiness depends on the direction one’s thoughts take. If one were to think positively, one can make one’s dreams materialise. He tells Ekambaram that faith in God is really faith in oneself. It’s a theme that recurs throughout the play, as each character discovers the power of positive thought.

There were some very good ideas in the play, as for example the spontaneity of Ekambaram’s son Saravanan (Kriba) in inviting his father-in-law (M.D. Murthy) to stay with him in his parental home, an idea that has Ekambaram’s enthusiastic backing. In an era when everyone has to chip in to care for the elderly and the dependent in their families, more real life Saravanans and Ekambarams are needed.

The exchanges between Saravanan and Uma (Srilakshmi) were lively. Every actor slipped into the role assigned to him/her, with ease. The play had dialogue on faith that mirrored the Biblical definition of faith. The Bible says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen.” In the play, Venkatesan says faith precedes evidence and that faith equals hope, without which one cannot survive.

But what was unconvincing about the play was its insistence that one could direct the course of events in one’s life, just by thinking positively. While it is true that pessimism gets one nowhere, neither does misplaced optimism.

Venkatesan’s explanation that he looked after his mother out of a sense of duty went against his earlier observation to Ekambaram, that he should not talk of duty, but should instead use the word affection. So why does he himself talk of his duty to his mother? Again it was rather weird to hear that mother’s illness was God’s blessing because it gave him a chance to serve her.

Sundar’s was a brave and novel attempt, although it was not quite convincing.

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