Shraddha’s “ASTHIRAM” by K. Vivekshnkar – Hindu Review
Excellent sets: Shraddha’s Asthiram. Photo: R. Shivaji Rao
Shraddha’s ‘Asthiram’ was full of loose ends that did not tie up successfully in the end.
‘Asthiram,’ staged in Chennai, was Shraddha’s eighth play, for which it had teamed up again with Vivek Shankar, who wrote Shraddha’s first play, ‘Dhanushkodi.’ The curtains went up to show an idyllic village setting – a house complete with thinnai and carved pillars, flanked by two smaller ones. The sets were excellent, a job well done by Mohan Babu and Usha Stage Vijayakumar.
The owner of the big house is Periayasami Thevar (Shivaji Chaturvedi). The street is the scene of mysterious activities. Ali (T.D. Sundararajan) is masquerading as Govindan, the peon of the village school. Chandru is masquerading as a school teacher. The reason? Ali is working on a top secret weapons project for the Government. Their lab? Thevar’s oil mill, which he has obligingly allowed them to use!
If you get the feeling that you are entering the realm of absurdity, brace yourself, for there is more to come.
Aswin and Soorya are masquerading as brothers. Aswin is a terrorist, and Soorya has been dragged into the conspiracy because his mother is being held hostage. Soorya also pretends to be differently-abled.
Kathadi Ramamuthi as the loquacious Sethu and Suraj as Soorya gave very good performances, but they couldn’t prop up the play, which fell flat.
‘Asthiram’ had many implausible situations. One wondered why research on a secret project was being done in a village. Unlike in a city, one cannot have anonymity in such a small, rural place. If the project was top secret, only a select few should know about it. But in this case, everyone from the oil mill owner to the local inspector knew about it!
The messages were hammered in. Whenever Ali took a break from his research work, he gave mini lectures about dharma and the deterrent effect of weapons.
Then there were some unanswered questions. Who was the mysterious person from headquarters who kept calling up Aswin every now and then? And what was their reason for wanting to harm the country?
Logic takes a backseat
Then there is a visit by Dr. Abdul Kalam to the village, to congratulate a girl who has won a prize in a contest. Ali makes use of the opportunity to consult him about some scientific matters! The audience failed to see the logic behind this.
Why did Ali ask Soorya not to tell Annamma and Meera about the happenings in the village? Will a village not be agog with excitement by the sensational incident of a terrorist being gunned down? Instead, it gave Ali a chance to deliver a homily on unconditional love.
Geetha Narayanan as Annamma did not impress.
It looked as if it was first decided to have a village setting with its rustic charm and then have a story written around it. ‘Asthiram’ clearly did not live up to expectations.