Tuesday, April 28, 2015

'Perched' Under the Mangosteen Tree

I arrived a little early at the venue for the play. In a bid to build a rapport with the others, who had come to watch the play( after all i was alone and some talking and mingling was the need of the hour, how more lonelier do we feel when we see a like minded crowd but still can't connect with it), after a couple of pleasantries, i dropped the question ' are u here for Basheer or theater?'. i could feel that it was like a dropping a big stone into a well to see at what depth the water stood( the imagery brings to mind a similar sequence in the play). it was a perfect question, according to me.After all,  some noise had to come and it would reflect the depth of the person's involvement with the occasion. That way i could gauge mine too. if there was something i could take from them, i could do that as well.

even before the  play started they were playing some old malayalam songs that sounded like played on a gramaphone and the stage was lit with a dim light like that of a kerosene lamp. Both the light and the music served well to create a certain period mood for the play.

The stage settings for the play had a simple structure that would be the tree, a block of a structure that was variously featured as the wall, an entrance , etc..and a set of tyres heaped up in a corner that would incarnate as a well, a seat etc..an ' annakoodai', an ordinary aluminium basket would take shape as the mouth of a gramophone. a couple of tall stools had their own innovative usages.. these interesting avatars of props are an absorbing feature of theater for me.

The play itself as it unfolded, should have been an absolute pleasure for any lit lover, for it is not every day that you see a writer and his work celebrated in this grand and deserving manner.

The play was an interleaving of a few stories of Basheer, of which i could identify the titles poovan pazham, mathilakl, the story of Bargavi kutti, the world renown nose and Premalekhanam. Each story had its mood and fervor, and the interleaving helped achieve a neat balance.

The uninitiated might have found it difficult to follow the first half, but as each story gets wound up one after the other in the second half of the play, the interleaving nature becomes obvious, and even the uninitiated would start appreciating the plots by then.

even for those who did not know Basheer and his stories, the vitality in the perforemance of each and every character would have been good enough to happily sit and enjoy the play. Be it the graceful and suave old Basheer, or the  ever bickering couple, Jamila and Abdul kadhar, the energy and enterprise of the secretaries in the 'nose' story, the deep voice of Narayani reflecting passion and love and piercing the big wall and the composure and sadness in the  role of the cross-gender are some of the performances that stand out and help bring a work of lit to a colorful life.

When Basheer declares on stage that,'wars can be stopped only wen all the persons in the world get infected with ring worms and are kept busy scratching themselves'. it was classic Basheer mocking at the world and warning  to stop and think.

Songs and music pepped up the play by adding suitable flavour to the sequences. The element of comedy introduced by an effective timing and reactions by the lead couple in Poovan Pazham and the sprightly secretaries in 'nose'  sequnce served to lift the energy level of the play in toto, for otherwise the play would have sagged into a  bag of ruminations...

for me the height of the director's achievement in exploring the theatrical possibilities to the fullest was a sequence as a part of Premalekhanam, were we get to hear the voices of old Basheer, the narrator of the play; young Basheer in jail, the narrator of the story; the voices of Saramma and the young Basheer speaking for Kesavan Nair in the story itself and finally  the voice of Narayani listening from the other side of the wall. it was for me a moment where there was a perfect convergence of  lit and theater. kudos to the director for conceiving this seq..

i wanted to give a big hug to the director for so beautifully projecting Basheer the person, his writings and some excellent theater on the stage. He had managed to do full justice to all the three aspects and had made the lit lover in me grow very proud and fond of him and this work of his.

finally, immaterial of whether one was there for Basheer, Theater or jus for listening to some stories i believe all had their fill of the treat and everything cheer..


Paul Mathew said...

Thank you for the review. Very energising and rewarding!!

Paul Mathew (the elder Basheer)

Nithya Balaji said...

Well written. Totally enjoyed the play. Fantastically quick costume changes . They managed to tell so much, make us all feel so much with so little.
Nithya Balaji

Shiju Babu Rajan said...

is there a possibility to see a video of this play

Paul Mathew said...

Hi Shiju. As far as I know Perch has not put up any videos of the play. Filming a play as a play does not do justice. The alternative is to shoot it as a film in parts. And that we have not done. All the same, we are performing UNDER THE MANGOSTEEN TREE again in July at Rangashankara, Bangalore. Dates - July 28th to 31st. Do come and watch us.
(Paul Mathew - Basheer)