Cho’s “Endru thaniyum indha Sudandhira dhaagam”
‘Enru Thaniyum Indha Sudandira Dhaagam’ by United Visuals
The passage of time has not taken away the relevance of Cho’s Endru Thaniyum…
Machiavellian machinations, double speak, self-interest masquerading as concern for others – yes we are talking of politicians. Cho’s ‘Endru Thaniyum Indha Sudandira Daagam,’ first staged in 1971, and now revived and presented by United Visuals, for Kartik Fine Arts, could well have been written today, for it is reflective of today’s political scene. It is a play where, once humour has been given its due, sobriety takes over in the mind of the viewer. When one sees Bharatiar on stage, one cannot help but feel anguish at how his dreams have gone awry.
This writer had watched a CD of the play staged by Cho, and compared to the original, the latest version lacked pep. The timing was missing, pauses punctuating the lines. Maybe it could be attributed to first day jitters, especially as Cho was in the audience. Ravikumar, as Nallathambi, speaking flamboyant nonsense, was a livewire on stage.
The audience did not cotton on to some of the jokes, the context not quite familiar. For example, the abolition of the Privy Purse and also Indira Gandhi’s whimsical nationalisation of private enterprises but much of it was relevant. But then Cho was keen that the script and the dialogue should not be changed.
At the end of the play, Gandhi decides to go on a fast, to save India from its politicians. Maybe if Cho had written the play now, Gandhi would not have gone on a fast, for that method of protest has been trivialised and has become a farce.
“When Cho first staged the play in 1970-71, eggs were thrown at the stage by those associated with the ruling party,” recalls Ambi, who played the role of Nallathambi, the politician who exports the Indian brand of democracy, described by J.K. Galbraith as ‘a functioning anarchy,’ to the celestial world.
“At the beginning of the play, we would appeal to the egg throwers to take proper aim!” laughs Cho. “In later years, Alai Osai Narayanan, came to see our plays and said that he was the one who had organised groups of people to fling eggs at us. He apologised for what he had done.” Since Cho had targeted the ruling party, as a rejoinder to him, the then Chief Minister wrote a play, ‘Naane Arivaali.’
If the politicians disliked the play so much, they could have ensured that licence was not given. “They had already tried it with Cho’s “Sambhavami Yuge Yuge,” and it didn’t work. So this time, they did not take him on directly,” says S.V. Sankaran, who has guided T.V. Varadarajen’s venture.
V.R. Srinivasan, who played the role of Bharatiar, says the roles seemed tailor-made for the members of the troupe. “Because of my height and girth, I was Yama,” says Neelu.
Narayanaswami, who played the roles of Vishnu and Nehru, recalls that while they were waiting to board the bus, after staging ‘Endru Thaniyum…’ in Bhavani, the organiser came running to them and said that a crowd of 6,000 had gathered and wanted the play to be staged again. So the troupe alighted from the bus and did a show from 10 p.m. onwards!
“Cho told me the outline of Endru thaniyum while we were on a bus from Pollachi to Coimbatore. He would finish a script in two days and would never make changes in it. S.V. Ranga Rao would watch our plays every Sunday at Safire theatre. Ranga Rao wanted Cho to change the tragic ending of “What For”, but Cho refused.”
How did Cho plan the script for Endru thaniyum? “I never consciously planned any of my scripts. They just evolved,” says Cho. On the relevance of the play today, he says, “The present day appeal of the play is because politicians are just the same. They are the ones who are keeping my plays relevant.”
The observations Cho makes in the play are ones we have often made ourselves, but never with Cho’s tartness or humour, reminding one of Alexander Pope’s words, “What oft was thought, but ne’er so well express’d.”