The strands were both strong and weak in Sreevathson’s web.
Corporate espionage, sabotage of a rival company’s project, revenge of a jilted lover, technology which compromises privacy - any of these could weave complicated webs. Shraddha’s new play ‘Valai’ (written and directed by V. Sreevathson) dealt with all these factors.
The curtain went up to show the tastefully done up living room in the house of Ramakrishnan (Balaji), a brilliant engineer from IIT, who is working on a top secret project for his company. There is a sinister plot to derail the same.
The story belongs to the category of science fiction, and that precludes the possibility of faulting it for inaccuracies, for science fiction borders on fantasy and is usually futuristic.
But the play had other flaws, which should have been avoided. The way Mani (Girish) conducted himself in office made the whole office look like a college classroom. Would those working on top secret projects behave so childishly? Mani’s question to a potential interviewee about whether she had been disappointed in love was so absurd that it didn’t deserve even a laugh. Who, in any company, would put such a question to someone attending an interview?
Sreevathson came in for a scene, as the late Sujatha. True the writer was so well read that in a conversation, he would touch upon a wide range of subjects. But then his various observations would never lack cohesion. However, Sreevatson’s touching upon the Thirukkural, Kamba Ramayanam, etc, had no relevance at all to the scene.
Now for the positive points in the play. The sets (Mohan Babu and Vijayakumar) must be mentioned here. The stage had been split vertically, with the upper portion serving as the office and the lower as the house of Ramakrishnan. A door that opened when employees displayed biometric identification worked without a glitch. The use of shades of gray and steel gave the office the required serious, formal look.
Nithya Kaushik, as Mirnalini, made a charming villain. The underplayed performances of Balaji, who discovers that the embers of his first love are not quite dead, and Kavitha Sivakumar as his wife Maya, were pleasing.
The statements that IITs should not be treated as factories to produce engineers for the West and that if IITians were interested only in migrating to the U.S., then IIT education should not be subsidised were very valid ones. It takes courage to make such statements, when it is considered the ultimate achievement of parenting is to see one’s child go through IIT and then to the U.S.
The Shraddha team hopes to draw a young audience to Tamil theatre. If they succeed in doing so, then such messages would be most valuable. But platitudinous statements are not enough to make a play interesting. The play was slow, predictable and bereft of any excitement, although it should have been racy, given that it was about corporate rivalry, secret surveillance and a vengeful woman.