‘Parinayam,' scripted by M.T. Vasudevan Nair and directed by Soorya Krishnamoorthy, relives the injustice of ‘smarthavicharam.'

It was a journey back in time. The drama ‘Parinayam,' penned by M. T. Vasudevan Nair and directed with creative modifications in the script by Soorya Krishnamoorthy, was staged for an invited audience at the Model School Auditorium, Thiruvananthapuram, recently.

This in effect was a reliving of the injustice of a ‘smarthavicharam.' Perhaps this is timely, for the most infamous of the ‘smarthavicharams' – that of Kuriyedathu Thathri – had concluded in another July, back in 1905.

To the uninitiated, the ‘smarthavicharam' is the trial of a ‘sadhanam' (a Namboothiri woman) accused of adultery. It was a common practice in the early part of the previous century and was a traumatic experience for the accused as well as the onlooker. The drama kept the audience on tenterhooks and posed a rejoinder on how the world accepts injustice without question.

Skewed social order

Multiple references to ‘Adukkalayilninnum Arangathekku,' the path-breaking play written by V.T. Bhattathirippad as a part of the renaissance movement in the Namboothiri community, and Lalithambika Antharjanam's heart-felt words in ‘Agnisakshi'– ‘it is the worst of experiences to be born a woman among Namboothiri folk' – have been used in the play to transport us back to those unfortunate times when the social order was certainly skewed in terms of gender justice.

‘Parinayam' records this revolution in literary history by a faithful portrait of a social reformer, in the bold protagonist Kunjunni, enacted by Sujith A. K. The precise sketch of a ‘smarthan' (Jose P. Raphael in the role) or the judge without justifications, who is the King's representative in the trial, is one that sets the audience thinking.

Perhaps the best sketch of all is that of the woman who is under trial. She never appears on stage, and is known only by a voice, which speaks but little; reminiscent of the role forced on the Namboothiri women of the past. But the few words we hear give us a visual of a strong female who breaks down only when her trust in her lover is shattered.

Yet, she does not leave the scene of the community court-martial as a desolate woman, but as one who promises to return with a vengeance, through Ammu, a woman born from her womb. Mithuna Nevin is absolutely brilliant as the unseen Nangeli, conveying the mood through excellent voice modulations.

Soorya Krishnamoorthy has, in his own words, taken creative freedom with the script by M.T. Krishnamoorthy's endeavours include Ammu, the omnipresent contemporary element in all his creations, here too, as a representative of the future; a future that promises to question injustice, and not obey without reason.

The modification in the script also questions the qualification of those who sit in judgment, in this case the ‘smarthan.' M.T.'s heroine is Nangeli, but Krishnamoorthy opts for a different heroine, the servant girl Kunjikali, effectively and boldly portrayed by Asha Devi. The other roles are played by Ajayan Alathoor as Madhavan, Vinod Gandhi as Aphan and Shaji Nissar and Raju Pillai as the other Namboothiris.

The set certainly contoured to the ambience needed by the drama. The array of characters that were paraded on and off stage shook off limitations of space that could have been felt at an unusual theatrical venue.

The costumes, lights and sound, and the period make-up too added their humble bit to the atmosphere but what failed albeit slightly was the diction of the actors in the role of the different Namboothiris.

One came away with empathy for the women who once suffered from and were suffocated by the social order of bygone times. M.T.'s quintessential craft woven into Krishnamoorthy's stage magic has that effect on you.