Vignettes of life

The theatre festival organised in connection with the Soorya Dance and Music Festival comprised some interesting plays staged in Kerala over the last year.

s the curtain fell on the 10-day Soorya theatre festival, theatre buffs in Thiruvananthapuram were a contented lot as they were treated to a variety of plays. While some of the plays stuck to traditional narratives, a few, literally, took the play into the audience.

‘Ithu Oru Kurangante Kadhayalla,’ scripted and directed by Jayaprakash Kuloor, was one such play that blurred the divide between the stage and the spectators. The story was improvised as the interaction between the characters and the audience developed.“I have seen very few plays that manage audience interaction so constructively,” said Alex Valikkunnam, a theatre scholar.

‘Kanyadanam,’ penned by Thikkodian, was directed by M. Vinod for Thrissur Nadaka Sowhridavedi.

The story depicted in vivid terms the eternal relationship between man and soil through the travails of an old farmer Palakkal Chandu Nair, who tries hard to make a farmer of his son Sukumaran. However Sukumaran turns his nose up at anything to do with agriculture.

Excellent choreography

The scene in which we see Ousseph and his daughter Elikkutti talking was beautifully choreographed and the subtle background music enhanced the ambience to conjure up the magic of night. “The theme cannot be separated from the soil, and that is why we usually present this outdoors,” says Vinod, the director. Gokuldas played the role of Chandu Nair. Binod and Jisha performed excellently as Sukumaran and Elikkutti.

‘Pattabakki,’ a drama designed and directed by Chandradasan of Lokadharmi, Kochi, explores the practice of ‘Pattabakki,’ which existed before Independence. It was written by veteran K. Damodaran.

The farmers had to give a share of their year’s yield to the landlord. If they were unable to do so, the arrears accumulated each month effectively turning the farmers into slaves. Such arrears were called ‘Pattabakki.’

“Nothing has changed,” says Chandradasan. “We are slaves in contemporary times too as Pattabakki exists in different names now.” People go after material gains, yielding their freedom and peace of mind to the new landlords, who are businessmen. The stage setting cleverly showed the political divide between the haves and the have-nots. Vijayakumar portrayed the hero Kittunni Nair convincingly, while Sukanya Shaji donned the role of the heroine with élan.

Manjulan came up with a superb solo performance of a hunchback in the 40-minute play ‘Koonan.’ Developed from Kuloor’s theme, Manjulan gave the story a punch with a pitch-perfect performance.

Reflecting the mind

‘Kannadi’ another play inspired by Kuloor, was staged on the same day by students of the Theatre Department of Sree Shankaracharya University, Kalady.

The play was directed by K. Vinod Kumar, a faculty member of the department. The play worked in many levels. An entertainer with music, dance and some sparkling performances, it also dwelt upon how ego could poison the best of relationships. “I also infused some Sufi philosophy into the text, as the characters start observing themselves from outside,” says Vinod Kumar.

The festival came to an end with an adaptation of Basheer’s ‘Mathilukal,’ directed by Pramod Payyannur. Songs of Saigal and poems of Asan and O.N.V. were fused into the play to create the nostalgic mood. Appropriate props such as a gramophone and a planter’s chair recreated the ambience of Basheer’s home on stage.

“Themes from many stories written by Basheer were also used in the play,” says Pramod. M.R. Gopakumar played the role of the young Basheer, while Sajitha effectively portrayed Narayani.

The theatre festival was a huge success but plays which explore new modes of interactivity and experimental theatre would have been a value addition to the festival.

Source: The Hindu

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About Manu Remakant

Manu has written 298 stories in Rum, Road & Ravings. You can read all posts by here.

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