Sujatha's Five Dramas
When : 27 Sep 2019  | Time: 7:00 PM
Where : Narada Gana Sabha
About the Event

Play (full) Stories for a houseful audience

Five short stories of Sujatha were play-shaped and staged at Narada Gana Sabha. The audience response was overwhelming and the main hall was packed with ardent die-hard fans of Sujatha. For them it was a momentous occasion worthy of celebration.

The stories briefly (the cast is indicated in brackets):

A story of 1990, Anumathi (அனுமதி) takes on the by now “universal subject” of corruption and seeks to justify it in a nuanced way. But even that back-fires. Ramadurai (Sriraman), typically of the middle-class is an employee in a Government organization has a record of blemishless service of 25 years. His son, Balaji(Aditya) is without a job for now and that brews tension at home. One fine day Ramadurai is confronted by the physical presence of a beneficiary Vishnumurthi (Parameswaran) who demands the circumventing of a clause and thereby accord sanction to a proposal that is resting on his desk. Ramadurai bawls out at him. Back home he is forced to reassess the situation with his wife Lakshmi (Anuradha) and ultimately acquiesces. In return he would be given the question paper for the “test” which his son is to take in a couple of days. The exchange happens; “questions” are now in the hands of his son Balaji. After the test Balaji comes home only to tell his father that he had felt the pangs of conscience and chose to hand over a blank answer-sheet. This in spite of the fact the questions were an exact replica of what was leaked out. His reasoning, resolve: Scores of men and women must have done enough hard-work in preparing for this test. There was no reason for him to take this immoral route. The father may have succumbed to circumstances but the son annuls it. He would also not want to tarnish the image of his father.

Eithavan (எய்தவன்), written in 1996, unlike the previous one (cited above) takes an eye-for-an-eye as its working model. An attempt is made on Sundaralingam’s (Pothylingam) life. This becomes the opening scene - a bolt from the blue. He survives, with fatal injuries and loses an eye. Being public-spirited by nature, this lawyer wishes to continue his crusade against wrong-doing and wrong-doers, notwithstanding the remonstrations from his wife Maragadham (Anuradha). Police investigation by the DIG (Karthikeyan) is on, the press gets its teeth into it and this event soon acquires political connotations. The probable culprits are nabbed and at an identification parade Sundaralingam is able to pinpoint the attacker, Segar (Elango), his memory aiding him in this whodunit in a great way. Strangely Sundaralingam requests and is granted a private conversation with the accused, Segar. He in his own shrewd investigative way finds out the real villain (எய்தவன்). It is the politician Manimohan (Rajmadan). The lawyer now casts his net. Telling Segar casually that this daring unfulfilled act of his would make him go to gaol for a minimum of 15 years, he comes up with a deal. The lawyer prescribes the use of a revolver to “discharge Segar’s duties” as what was deployed hitherto left his mission un-accomplished. His first revolver-victim has to be Manimohan and Segar would be acquitted of all charges as a bargain! How’d you like it?

Written in 1982, Nagaram (நகரம்) begins with Valliammal (Lakshmi) coming to Madurai proper for treating her daughter Paappathi (Indu). She is down with fever and the local doctor at the primary health centre in her village, has given a scare and recommended her to the hospital (பெரிய ஆஸ்பத்திரி) in Madurai. Here the chief doctor (Parameswaran) who is on his rounds examines the girl and identifies her ailment as an “acute case of meningitis” and she is to be admitted at once. Valliammal goes through some procedural issues and finally is told that the ward cannot even hold standees for now. The position may ease the next day. She is to appear in the morning early and try her luck. Finally, after a tearful search for her daughter who had to be “left alone” in a stretcher, Valliammal locates her and gets back to her own village for crude non-medical local quack-treatment and  makes a vow to visit Lord Vaitheeswaran, the all-disease-curing-deity, with an offering. Incidentally she is taken back to her village by the same rickshaw man (Thamizhselvan) from whom she asked directions to reach the hospital (This forms the opening scene of this play). It is a subtle indictment of the city’s unfriendly people-scape and its inhuman culture. It is the sad story of a rustic, illiterate and innocent woman’s encounter with the hurry and tumult of the urban milieu. 

Mankind is continuing its search for an elixir of life. 1000 Varudangal Uyirudan Vaazhvadu Eppadi? (1000 வருடங்கள் உயிருடன் வாழ்வது எப்படி?) more or less aids in this exercise. A practising research-oriented physician Dr.Raghavanandam (Rajmadan), describes in detail to a friend/patient of his, Balu (Vivek Raju) of how a person belonging to the 17th century is alive and could be seen upstairs in the form of Pulavar Senthilnathan ( Pothylingam). The doctor had “met” him in a meeting at Mylapore. Balu is in utter disbelief and after some probing questions prefers to adopt the wysiwyg (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) policy. Senthilnathan prepares a potion just in front of their eyes and shares it with Balu and the doctor. They get energized initially and Balu tries to feel his pulse hopefully (only two heart beats per minute?). But the doctor and the professor want Balu to give the “solution” some reasonable time to react.  The doctor and Balu however, go into a merry-making mood, swayed by this concoction.

The last play Suriyan (சூரியன்) did not strike any chord with the audience seen by the trickling out of viewers. Whether this can be attributed to the fact that this was the last play is for the strategist to explain. Its subject matter was around a family that gets imprisoned in an artificial atmosphere intentionally without getting exposed to the Sun, the restrictions on the use of paper that is almost rationed and many such. Could this play have been inserted to take the third slot? Or could they have tried another option like Thimala (திமலா) where a high-end-tech-savvy professional is unable to find time to visit the temple at Thimala (or Thirumala?) and the tensions he faces both at his workspot and at home. (The cast had Anand Ram, Shwetha, Master Harish, Karthikeyan, and Natarajan as performers)

Whether Sujatha intended this story-play conversion when he wrote these is debatable. Director Dharini Komal, nevertheless has strived to present them without any sense of overdoing, thus establishing harmony with the very stories. Each one of these was limited in its duration too. That in fact, became a disadvantage as none of the plays got stuck to your mind firmly as you travelled out of the arena. No lingering effect felt.

There were none of those lavish sets, lest you should get preoccupied with those, losing the fabric of the play. There was never the need for any extraordinary histrionics in any of these and the participants understood that these stories (plays) belonged to everyday life, but were seen with a Sujatha perspective. They had an affable spontaneity about them. The stories chosen have been situated between the years 1969 to 1996 and there is an undercurrent of social concern in all of these.

The audience, predictably, comprised mostly of men, women and children, with a predominant sabha-drama interest. And Indira Parthasarathy is said to have remarked that the sabha dramas are a bunch of witticisms (துணுக்குத் தோரணங்கள்). But the Director, Dharini Komal had visibly transcended this definition through these plays. She can also lay claim to have become doubly efficient, of catering to this kind of audience and simultaneously trying to elevate them to a higher plane.

Credits -- Stage Management- Kannan, Music - Guhaprasad, Lighting - Mano Lens, Sound – Narada Gana Sabha, Make-up - Perambur Kumar, Graphics Design – Subramani, Stills – Mohan, Production Management – Pothilingam, Stage Resource Management – Rajaram, Thulasi, Ashok,

Apart from the credits mentioned above here are the names of some more who played minor roles but added significance to the overall presentation : Shruthi Balakrishnan, Vivek Raju, Rajaraman, Shruthi, Anand ram, Anuradha, Shwetha, Aditya, Ashok, Sriraman, Thamizh, Ravi, Vijay, M R P Santhanam,  Rajamansingh, Thulasi, Aditya, Uma,  and Ashok.

(Komal Theatre had staged these plays, with a documentary on Sujatha as a preface, under the auspices of Sri Parthasarathi Swami Sabha, Brahma Gana Sabha and Kartik Fine Arts on 27.09.2019.)

S Sivakumar

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