Thursday, March 28, 2013

Drama tribute to C S Chellapa

There were no eye-catching props or sets or lighting. It was a nondescript room at the Roja Muthiah Research Library in Taramani, with the audience taking up one half of the space. Yet, as the play took off and the actors began enacting their roles and mouthing their dialogues in a Southern Tamil dialect, the charged atmosphere became emotional.

The play was Murai-P-Pen (Rightful Bride) written by C S Chellappa, who was in the forefront of shaping the literary history of the state.

And bringing his dramatic piece alive the play was directed by Kuberan with artistes of Koothu-p-Pattarai to commemorate the noted Tamil playwright’s 100th birth anniversary.

Depicted in the play were events associated with Chellappa’s native Vathalagundu, a small town dominated by the Thevar community. It is not surprising, therefore, that the scenes reflect the language, culture and bravery of the community.

The play portrayed a series of tragic events relating to a widowed woman and her daughter unfolding over a single night. The plot was deceptively simple: A widow, 45-year-old Angamma, played by Aathira, respects the wishes of her daughter Azagu and fixes the latter’s marriage to the village panchayat leader’s son — ignoring the traditional claim of her brother’s family. The decision creates tension not only in the two families, but also the entire village.

The opening scene shows the mother and daughter at their home. It is night and soon a knock disturbs their sleep and Angamma realises that it is her feuding brother, Pagudi Thevar at the door. A verbal confrontation ensues between the two on the issue of Azagu’s marriage and Pagudi leaves in a huff, vowing to stop the marriage. As darkness grows, several knocks follow, making members of the audience wonder who it is next.

The plot thickens, when it is a villager panting for his breath and he tells Angamma that her paddy fields and cow sheds have been set on fire and the cattle were fighting for their lives with burns all over their bodies. Angamma laments her loss and immediately begins to suspect her brother and his son Masanam’s hand in the fire. In this, she is supported by her daughter’s future father-in-law Balu Thevar.

Caught between the feuding brother and sister is their uncle Vellaya Thevar, played by R Baskar, who skillfully portrays the role of an elderly man torn between his love for his nephew and niece.

Aathira, who bears a striking resembling to Nadigaiyar Thilagam Savithri, easily won the acclaim of the audience by displaying the late actor’s flair for emotional histrionics and fluent dialogue delivery. The climax revealed an unexpected twist and the brother and sister are united once again.

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