Sunday, September 25, 2016

Chudamani- plays by Madras Players

I was spoilt for choices of events this Sunday evening. There were I Pa's 'Aurangazeb' staged by Theatre Nisha at AFM, Pappu Venigopal Rao on Badrachalam Ramadasu's Kirthanais at Vani Mahal and Chudamani by Madaras Players (MP) at Museum Theatre. I opted for Chudamani as i had attended a commemorative book release of hers, a compilation of her short stories Published by Kalachuvadu and on the occassion happenned to listen to Ms. Barathi and Ms. Seetha Ravi speak about her works. Ever since, i had been wanting to read more of her, but failed to. 

I thought it was great that MP had chosen to adopt her stories and stage them for the first time ever, and wanted to convey my appreciation by attending the Play. i still remember how i applauded and welcomed it when they announced the plans to stage Chudamani's stories at the end of their phenomenal leg of Mouse trap in Chennai. 

Chudamani was a phenomenal writer, who wrote around 100s of short stories between 1957 and 2010, when she passed away. She led a predominantly lonely life closely attached to her sisters. Though a loner, she seems to have kept a close watch on the society in general and many lives around her and look at them with the guiding lenses of her moral eyes in her stories. She is not judgemental but leaves enough clues to make you think differently.

Nikila Kesavan had chosen around 7 of her stories and adapted them wonderfully for the stage, this evening. She also gracefully donned Chudamani's looks in a  neck close blouse and white saree with a blue border. Thanks to K Bharathi, She also had Chudamani's actual writing desk to support her. However for people who knew the sufferings and the disablities Chudamani went through, Nikhila's plump appearence might have been a bit hard to accept.

all the stories had a strong women presence either in action or in subject. The first was about an aging father's agonising search for an alliance for his daughter. This story could have been the norm those days. its a sad reminder of the sad feelings of bygone days. It was a big relief to think taht these sad things are now a thing of the past or atleast very rare these days. its actually the story of two fathers ( of daughter), one riding the pillion on lady luck's drive and another left to the mercy of bad luck, in finding match for their daughters and in life in general. The pathos was enlarged due to the contrast in the two fates.

Next came a neatly done plait of two stories of ' Porunthaa Kaathal' or 'unmatched love'. Here Chudamani has let her imagination run crazy n wild in bringing interesting combinations of unmatched love and the sad end it has to face. She just gives us hints of these unmatched proposals, just lifting the veil for a second and closing it in a jiff, and quickly hastens to give them a typical short story ending. 

By now you tend to start understanding the world of the author. that she tends to create her stories out of charecters from an idealistic world, seasoning them with essential ingredients of a short story like a twist and a sweetened ending.

' Fourth Ashram' was ambitious and rebellious in portaraying 3 partners for a simple woman. this is again a case of wild imaginations, and a sweetened treatment to fit in a short story. Neither the woman's charecter nor her partners' are well developed to justify the strange course the woman choses to undertake. The lack of conviction in the story here ended in the audience bursting out in laughter and mockery at moments that were supposed to be grave in the play. 

The story of the Blind father and the committed daughter was a bit of a drag, saved only by the towering presence of PC Ramakrishnan. His love and commitment to theatre is infectious.

The story of Vellai and Thulasi was a sort of Chudamani's manifesto calling for equality and revering the divinity in man. Though again very ambitious in scope, this was more convincing to the viewer. Chudamani's brave dialogues questioning the meaning of rituals and neglect of humanity was brilliant. The fine drama in the dialogues between Thulasi and her father were well received by the audience. 

Last came S. Meenakshi, a women with many dreams who wishes to be so many things and is confronted by her tradition to be another 'amma' and finally decides and finds meaning in being herself. S. Meenakshi could be any woman or even man for that matter, who dream of many things in their youth and slowly let go all these dreams to only finally, failing to stand up and  end up going down the gutter of ordinary.

Chudamani's charecters are a reflection of the lives she might have aspired for in an ideal world. The play had fitting end in Chudamani walking past a guard of honour of the charecters she had conceived. 

Congratulations to MP for paying the best possible tribute to a writer, adopting her writings and giving them life. Chudamani would have been very proud. But one thing that kept begging at me was why had they chosen to do it in English. The plays would have been so natural and wonderful in Tamil.

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