Of the five reviewed at the Kodai Nataka Vizha, only one made for pleasant viewing.

If one were to write about the imponderables in Amman Arts’ ‘Paramapadam’ (story and dialogue by Karaikudi Narayanan), one would have to devote a whole supplement to it. A journalist, serving a life term in prison, spends most of his time talking on his cell phone, discussing with his editor possible stories for the newspaper!

The play was full of the most regressive ideas. A married woman must stay married, concludes the journalist. The gratuitous advice is offered to all women, and it is particularly galling, when offered to Ahalya, who has been in abusive relationships. Repeated use of the phrase ‘kept woman’ was most indecent.

Kodai Nataka Vizha has, in the past, seen unbelievable plots and inane stories, but never has such vulgarity been on display.

Ajay Enterprises’ ‘Kanna Unnai Thedugiraen’ (story by D.Mallikraj and direction by Sree Lakshmi) was a crisp, neat production, with impressive dialogue.

The play hit out against the irrational belief in horoscopes, which makes us resort to a blame game when disaster strikes, as Sadasivam (G. Saravanan) does, when Ramya’s (Sree Lakshmi) husband dies. The play had the right dose of humour, and there was nothing laboured about the message either. Sree Lakshmi is clearly past her prime and her lines, gently mocking her appearance, constituted a clever touch. They effectively took the wind out of the sails of those who might otherwise have criticised the casting. Sree Lakshmi was bubbly, with an infectious smile. Indian Murugan, with his youthful swagger and braggadocio, was good as Vichu, Ramya’s brother. The play made for pleasant viewing.

Chennai Navabharath Theatres’ ‘Unnaal Mudiyum Thatha’ (story and direction by N. Rathnam), showed octogenarian Koothapiran’s dedication to theatre, for he was on stage for almost the entire duration of the play (two hours), and did not forget a single line. His will power and mental agility deserve a salute.

The others did their respective roles well too. The play, however, lacked structure, with just a series of situations, some of them anachronistic, and some of them unbelievable, strung together, without an overarching theme. Offering a man an increment based on his father’s performance in a test, was a bit odd. Such an energetic thatha, in all fairness, should have been furnished with a stronger storyline.

Incredibly lengthy dialogue, heavy doses of melodrama, unbearable overacting and absurd situations add up to boredom, and that was the effect that Sri Rajamathangi Creations’ ‘Sathyavaakku’ (story and direction by Madurai Jadavallabhan) had.

Attempting to deal with both supernatural and contemporary issues, the play fell between two stools.

A politician tries to enlist Chidambaram Dikshitar’s help in smuggling the Chidambaram Nataraja idol. Even the most unintelligent smuggler will set his sights on a temple in a remote village. Would anyone be fool enough to try to lay his hands on the Chidambaram Nataraja?!

The Chidambaram temple set was well done (Padma Stage), but that was poor compensation.

Goodwill Stage’s ‘Namah Parvati Pathaye’ (story by Kovai Anuradha) was supposed to be about the need to look after old people, but the message one got from the play was an unintended one.

Sivaraman and his wife want Sivaraman’s parents, Mahadeva Iyer and Parvati, out of their house. The parents go to an old age home, because they are provided with free food and lodging in return for the services Parvati renders at the home. But the moment Sivaraman needs their help, the elderly couple do not think twice about abandoning those who depend on them. So how are they different from their son?

The message one got was that where self-interest was involved, elderly people were just as callous, although clearly that was not what the playwright had planned. Why did the residents of the home remain seated in the same places throughout the play, with no movement or changes at all?

There were some vulgarities too - for example, Nirmala denying Sivaraman entry into her bedroom unless he fell in line with her plans. Parasuraman’s suggestion to his daughter, that she falsely accuse her father-in-law of attempting to molest her, was revolting.

This reviewer saw five of the 12 plays at Kodai Nataka Vizha, and the conclusion is that if the vizha is not to be reduced to the status of a mere annual ritual, then the plays must be of better quality.