The Hindu Review of “Land of the Free”
SMARTLY CONTEMPORISED: From “Land of the free”
REVIEW Of the play “Land of the Free” presented by Madras Players and JustUs Repertory
Celebrated Tamil writer-playwright Prof. Indira Parthasarathy once said in an interview, “My work is a reaction to what’s happening around me.” He wrote the novel ‘Swathanthira Bhoomi’ just before the Emergency. The novel not only chronicled the fiefdom in Babuland but also touched upon a political system that was fast losing its core values — patriotism and service to the people. Corruption, deceit, power struggles and much else were rampant in the so-called corridors of power in the capital, where Ee. Paa (as the writer is referred to) spent considerable amount of time.
‘Swathanthira Bhoomi’ was resurrected and adapted into a play ‘Land of the Free’ by Gowri Ramnarayan and presented by the Madras Players and JustUs Repertory, at the Museum Theatre recently.
In a nutshell
The plot goes thus… Economics gold medallist Mukundan comes to Delhi with dreams of a white collar job, but ends up being a cook to Sunderlal Mishra, an MP and political kingmaker. How Mukundan moves from the kitchen to Parliament House and becomes the blue-eyed boy of the Party president, thus leaving behind Mishra’s other protégé Sarala Bhargava, is told through a series of episodes that reflects the game of realpolitik.
Without compromising on Ee. Paa’s signature style of employing uncomplicated sentences to express complex thoughts and issues, Gowri has smartly contemporised the theme to showcase current-day headlines — that of scams, police brutalities, corporate lobbying and coalition governments.
As Sunderlal Mishra, the ageing kingmaker and expert manipulator, who is ultimately a tragic figure plagued by self-hate, P.C. Ramakrishna was clearly the scene-stealer. Sunandha Raghunathan lived the role of ambitious Sarala. Varun Aiyer as Mukundan was competent. The caricature partymen from Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu Ramaraju (a convincing M.V. Narasimhachari), and Irungovel (T.M. Karthik) lent comic relief. The rest of the capable cast comprised Shankar Sundaram, Akhila, Aarabhi, Nand Menon and Shruthi.
The refreshing use of Hindi, Tamil and Punjabi dialogue in an English play lent authenticity to the proceedings, as did Michael Muthu’s functional sets. The use of popular film songs during scene changes heightened the irony of the situations.
‘Land of the Free’ left us with many questions: Has anything changed in the past 40 years? Will man ever stop compromising his ideals to achieve his goals? Questions to which we are still seeking answers…