On choosing a bride
A scene from `Pillayar Pidikka.
There was a time when prospective grooms laid down impossible conditions when it came to choosing a bride.
(A hilarious take on this was a play titled ‘Modi Masthan’ written by Visu in the Seventies, and later made into the film ‘Manal Kayiru.’) But now it is the girls who call the shots. Nothing wrong really, except when they lay down unfair conditions, as Nandini (Jayanthi), does in Stage Creations’s play, ‘Pillaiyar Pidikka…’, by S.L. Naanu.
The point about GenX not being interested in getting acquainted with the extended family had a ring of truth. And it is true that while Tamil has words for every relationship, GenX refers to all relatives above the age of 40 blandly as uncles or aunts. And gone are all those quaint words such as ‘athaan’ and ‘ammanji,’ which have yielded place to ‘cousin.’
Unfortunately, the play demanded more suspension of disbelief than one was capable of. And it could have used a liberal dose of humour.
One has seen better plays from Naanu.
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.
Two plays were staged by the Dummies Drama group on July 14 and 15 at Narada Gana Sabha under the auspices of the Kartik Fine Arts Club.
The cast differed on the two days but the writer was the same – V. Sreevathson. ‘Memory Minus’ dealt with memory loss. It was directed by Sriram and featured a new set of actors. The Hollywood film ‘50 First Dates’ dealt with a strikingly similar amnesiac condition. In this play, the theme and treatment made the whole premise appear absurd to the extreme.
The parents of a school-going boy are shocked when the doctor, a family friend, reveals that their son suffers from an extremely rare condition. He is brilliant but will awake to a new day literally every morning. The memory of not only the previous’ days events but also all that happened before will be wiped off his mind! The writer and director then took the audience on a really slow journey. The boy, who does extremely well at school and college, thanks to the support of his father and the doctor, reaches the point when he is setting off for an interview.
Along this course, the viewer had to bear the annoying sparring between the parent and the doctor that ostensibly made up the humour quotient, not to forget the cracks about the quality of the coffee served in the home. Both here and in the next play — as in many sabha plays — coffee comes to the rescue of the writer when he has a gap to fill or needs to project ‘comic relief.’ The scene with the school principal was another segment where inanity ruled. One also wished the writer’s characters refrained from resorting to English sentences when they wished to state anything ‘significant.’
The trend in cinema or theatre seems to be to focus on unusual medical problems. But the success lies in how well the theme is handled and how credible it can be made. The writer here seemed to have bitten off more than he could chew. He resorted to setting his scenes in the corporate world and then with a palpable sense of relief, turned to the world of courtship and marriage. The scenes descended into the usual family drama.
The young actors who featured in the corporate world managed their roles by just being themselves. The young genius got by as a scholar but his appearance hindered him from fitting into the role of a mature man. The final scene was quite absurd. ‘Memory Minus’ was a forgettable effort.
‘Pareekshai,’ directed by Sreevathson, too picked up slowly. But the playwright seemed much more in grasp of his subject in this play, which is a fervent salute to the guru nonpareil. The concept of the ideal guru-sishya relationship was appealing. But the treatment was repetitive and the play often made for tedious viewing. There were far too many scenes of the boy studying at the feet of the master who is bogged down by family problems, and one felt one was back in a Math class. The last scene was significant but far from crisp. The marriage motif was also repetitive and annoying. Every scene ended with a punch line and this set a pattern. The cheerful element was the music.
The role of the sishya was played convincingly by Karthik Bhat as was the guru by Sridhar. The writer who played the priest, the family friend, seemed unable to cope with the delivery of the long speech in the final scene. ‘Parikshai’ was disappointing. The spiritual and the philosophical were handled much better by the writer in a couple of earlier plays
A scene from ‘Neenga Yaarpakkam’ in the Nandana Navarasa Nataka Vizha
The nine-day Nandana Navarasa Nadaka Vizha has kept public interest in theatre movement alive
Madurai is not only the seat of Tamil learning but also a centre of Tamil drama. Not many would have forgotten the contributions of Sankaradas Swamigal and Nawab Rajamanickam Pillai to this art. Be it the spectacular historical and mythological plays or the topical social dramas, people flocked to the halls to watch them. Their interest in theatre gradually faded with the advent of film and then satellite television.
With the theatre festival now running, all of a sudden the city is buzzing. The Lakshmi Sundaram Hall, venue of the fete, witnessed a sizeable turnout and the hall reverberated with rapturous applause for the performers. The audience response has delighted the drama aficionados who were waiting for such an opportunity.
Some people in the city feel that we can cash in on this new found enthusiasm for drama and keep it active. Here are some of their suggestions to revive theatre art in the city.
‘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.
”தொடரும்…” நாடகத்தில் ஒரு காட்சி
பிரயத்தனா நாடக்க் குழுவுக்கு நாடகத்தின் தரம் பற்றிய அக்கறை மட்டுமல்ல, புதுமையைப் புகுத்த வேண்டும் என்ற ஆர்வமும் உண்டு. விவேக்சங்கர், வசனத்தில் மட்டுமல்லமல், மேடை அமைப்பிலும் புதிதாக ஏதாவது செய்தாக வேண்டும் என்று துடியாக இருப்பவர். “சிரத்தா” அமைப்பு தோன்றுவதற்கும், மேடையில் புதுமையைப் புகுத்துவதற்கும் சென்ற ஆண்டு தன் “தனுஷ்கோடி” நாடகம் மூலம் பிள்ளையார் சுழி போட்டவர் விவேக்சங்கர்.
விவேக்சங்கரின் “தொடரும்…” ஒரு பயமுறுத்தலான மேடை நாடகம். “ஹாரர் ஸ்டோரி” என்கிறார் விவேக்சங்கர். ரசிகர்கள் பல இடங்களில் பயந்துபோய்க் கைதட்டுகிறார்கள். அதற்கு காரணம் அவ்வளவு தத்ரூபமான நடிப்பு. வெற்றிகரமான சினிமா இயக்குனராக வரும் அப்சர், வேறு ஒருவருடைய திரைக்கதை-வசனத்தைத் தன்னுடையதாக்கிக் கொள்ள, திரைப்படம் வெளியாகி சக்கைப்போடு போடுகிறது. அதை எழுதியவர் மறைந்துவிட, அப்சருக்கு சவால் விடுகிற மாதிரி, தொடருகிறது நாடகம். அவருடைய உதவியாளர்களே அவரைத் தோலுரித்துக் காட்டிவிட முயலும் நிகழ்ச்சிகள்தாம் நாடகத்தின் பயங்கரக் காட்சிகளுக்கு காரணமாக இருக்கின்றன.
அப்சரை புதிய படத்துக்கான டிஸ்கஷனுக்காக, ஒரு மலைப் பிரதேச வீட்டுக்கு கூட்டிக்கொண்டு வருகிறார்கள் அவருடைய உதவியாளர்கள். இங்கேதான் செட்டுக்கு முதலில் அப்ளாஸ் விழுகிறது. அப்புறம்தான் அப்சருக்கு விழுகிறது அப்ளாஸ். இரவில் பயமுறுத்தல்களுக்கு எஃபெக்ட் அதிகம். எனவே விளக்கொளியும், வெளிச்சமும் குறைவாக இருக்கையில் பயமுறுத்தலின் திவீரம் ரசிகர்களை தொடத்தான் செய்கிறது. அதுதான் நாடகத்தின் வெற்றி. அடுத்தவன் சொத்தை அனுபவிக்க ஆசைப்படாதே என்பதைத்தான் விவேக்சங்கர் சுட்டிக்காட்டியிருக்கிறார். அப்சரை பயப்பட வைக்கிற அளவுக்கு அவருடைய உதவியாளர்கள் நடிக்கிற நடிப்புகூட மிகையாக தெரியவில்லை.
திரைத்துறையில் இதெல்லாம் சகஜமாக இருக்குமா என்று தெரியாது. ஆனால் விவேக்சங்கருக்கு ஒரு “ஹாரர் நாடகம்” எழுதி அவர்களை எச்சரிக்கை செய்ய இந்த சப்ஜெக்ட் வசதியாக இருக்கிறது.
Source: Dinamani, Dt. 2nd March 2012 (page 6)
Prayatna has to be commended for trying horror, rarely explored.
While most people would hesitate to steal another person’s material possessions, somehow ethical boundaries get blurred when it comes to stealing intellectual property. Why would an otherwise honest person cross the Rubicon when it comes to stealing another person’s ideas, is a question worth exploring from many angles.
Prayatna’s ‘Thodarum’ (story, dialogue, direction, production K. Vivekshankar) is about the theft of a script by film director Arjun (Absar).
But the play does not focus on the psychological causes for such thefts or the legal redress available to victims of such thefts. Arjun is not merely guilty of stealing someone else’s script. He is guilty of having allowed a man to die. Does this make him a murderer? Is an act of omission as sinful as an act of commission? This is yet another angle the playwright could have explored, but didn’t, for the focus throughout was on creating an eerie atmosphere, leading up to the climax, and in this the play succeeded to some extent.
Horror is a genre not often attempted on stage, and ‘Thodarum’ was a bold attempt. However, it was not scary enough. In a story about the occult, it is silence, faint whispers, and the suggestion of menace that are more frightening, rather than a ghost which announces its presence loudly. The use of anklets to suggest a ghostly presence is old hat. The director could have tried some other technique to create a spooky atmosphere.
Absar as the one haunted by Sathish’s ghost gave a splendid performance, alternating between bouts of braggadocio and fright.
The story takes place in a cottage in a remote hill station. The cottage is picture perfect – simple and elegant. The trees and the mist seen through the window, display the beauty of the place, but also suggest the danger lurking behind the beauty. Full marks to Usha Stage Vijayakumar, who was in charge of the sets.
But the play could have done with a lot of pruning, the story not justifying the length. Sevanaa’s (T.D. Sundararajan) lines on the film fraternity seemed like an afterthought. There were some baffling moments too. If Krishna (Girish) is a bosom friend of Sathish (Balaji), why is he quiet when Arjun scolds him for giving his (Arjun’s) phone number to a stranger called Sathish?
In recent times, one notices that plays announce their arrival with a lot of emphasis on how good their sets are going to be. While the props are truly remarkable in most plays, and good sets are a treat to watch, it would be a pity if one hopes for looks to make up for shortcomings in the content. ‘Thodarum’ is a play where the sets become the hero, and the story plays second fiddle. One awaits the day when one can see a play where the story does not try to ride on the back of the sets, but vies with the same for top honours.