Play ‘Nalladhor Veenai…’ by Shraddha had a lot going for it, but it remained trapped in topicality. Kausalya Santhanam

‘Nalladhor Veenai…’ presented by Shraddha took a deep look at what goes behind the scenes in reality shows. The play, written and directed by V. Sreevathson, was recently staged at the Narada Gana Sabha hall for four days.

A contented middle class couple - Ramarathinam and Mythili ( Sreevathson and Suchitra Ravi)- revel in the talent of their only child, Varshini (Vaishnavi), who is a gifted singer. But the rhythm of their life is disrupted when they receive an offer to have her groomed for a talent show on television. Increasing demands are made on their financial resources and they find the stress mounting on themselves and their daughter, as they are drawn into the “crazy”, contrived world of show biz.

The play was directed with a sure hand and the gradual progression of the plot was convincing.

The toll that the pursuit of success takes when one is blinded by the glamour of popularity and TV ratings was engagingly narrated.

The characters were well etched and the dialogue well thought out. There were sensitive touches such as when the father rues the fact that he is no longer able to spend time with his daughter. The comparison between politicians who lobby for positive feedback and contestants in talent shows was a good stroke.

Sets (Padma Stage Kannan with design and execution by Krishnamoorthi) were fashioned with attention to detail as the reality show was the highlight - the backdrop, the psychedelic lights (lights: Chetta Ravi) and the mikes all conjured up the event.

Good job by the cast

The mother is dismayed when the producer ropes in a designer to dress up her daughter in smart clothes for the event. But when the girl makes her appearance, what she had worn previously seemed better.

Vaishnavi as the young Varshini was a real find. With appealing innocence, she succeeded in making a smooth transition from a fresh young singer to a girl driven to win. Suchitra’s performance as her mother showed much understanding of the role. She never went overboard and displayed the right expression and gesture whether as an ambitious mother who wanted her daughter to have all the chances or as the bewildered one who watches helplessly as her daughter gets obsessed with the desire to win. Her expression as she listens to the music teacher was apt.

Sreevathson was very good in certain portions: when he rued the loss of time spent with his daughter; the many intangibles that are being lost in the mad rat race; the scene where he locked horns with the anchor … But he put in a self conscious portrayal in certain other places especially at the beginning when he went overboard with his expressions.

R.B. Krishna made a hyper anchor, a clone of the dozens one sees on the small screen. Jayanthi Gowrishankar, as the music teacher, had a significant role to play and delivered her lines with aplomb, proving she was a fine choice for the role.

The female judges were too dressed up. But Prema Sadasivan, though she had just a couple of lines to deliver, managed to succinctly convey the feel of the character though them.

Music by Giridharan and Amuthan (vocal music: Niveditha Sriram) had a major part to play in taking the production forward. The end was satisfactory when Varshini makes her announcement. The device of a lecture at the end by a family friend or elderly relative is the tool used for the resolution of the plot in many mainstream plays. Sreevathson was unable to break out of this mould though the music teacher’s arguments are well articulated.

But the nature of the theme precluded the play from being totally out of the ordinary. Social trends and current phenomena - whether it is the following of vaasthu specifications or the acquisition and use of credit cards, and their attendant pitfalls have been dealt with comprehensively in previous plays by other groups.

This is just the neat treatment of yet another trend though enhanced by the use of songs and music. Dealing with a topical theme the play was trapped within its own topicality and time frame. Such plays have an ephemeral and a popular appeal. When will plays and troupes reach beyond?