Prayatna has to be commended for trying horror, rarely explored.
While most people would hesitate to steal another person’s material possessions, somehow ethical boundaries get blurred when it comes to stealing intellectual property. Why would an otherwise honest person cross the Rubicon when it comes to stealing another person’s ideas, is a question worth exploring from many angles.
Prayatna’s ‘Thodarum’ (story, dialogue, direction, production K. Vivekshankar) is about the theft of a script by film director Arjun (Absar).
But the play does not focus on the psychological causes for such thefts or the legal redress available to victims of such thefts. Arjun is not merely guilty of stealing someone else’s script. He is guilty of having allowed a man to die. Does this make him a murderer? Is an act of omission as sinful as an act of commission? This is yet another angle the playwright could have explored, but didn’t, for the focus throughout was on creating an eerie atmosphere, leading up to the climax, and in this the play succeeded to some extent.
Horror is a genre not often attempted on stage, and ‘Thodarum’ was a bold attempt. However, it was not scary enough. In a story about the occult, it is silence, faint whispers, and the suggestion of menace that are more frightening, rather than a ghost which announces its presence loudly. The use of anklets to suggest a ghostly presence is old hat. The director could have tried some other technique to create a spooky atmosphere.
Absar as the one haunted by Sathish’s ghost gave a splendid performance, alternating between bouts of braggadocio and fright.
The story takes place in a cottage in a remote hill station. The cottage is picture perfect - simple and elegant. The trees and the mist seen through the window, display the beauty of the place, but also suggest the danger lurking behind the beauty. Full marks to Usha Stage Vijayakumar, who was in charge of the sets.
But the play could have done with a lot of pruning, the story not justifying the length. Sevanaa’s (T.D. Sundararajan) lines on the film fraternity seemed like an afterthought. There were some baffling moments too. If Krishna (Girish) is a bosom friend of Sathish (Balaji), why is he quiet when Arjun scolds him for giving his (Arjun’s) phone number to a stranger called Sathish?
In recent times, one notices that plays announce their arrival with a lot of emphasis on how good their sets are going to be. While the props are truly remarkable in most plays, and good sets are a treat to watch, it would be a pity if one hopes for looks to make up for shortcomings in the content. ‘Thodarum’ is a play where the sets become the hero, and the story plays second fiddle. One awaits the day when one can see a play where the story does not try to ride on the back of the sets, but vies with the same for top honours.