There were very few ‘wow' moments and plenty of passé plots at the Kodai Nataka Vizha

(The second and concluding part of Kodai Nataka Vizha)

The sets of Gurukulam's ‘Narkalikku Idamillai' pepped one up for they depicted the living room of a flat with bright orange window frames. Something different, one felt. But when the play began, the lead and only character till the intermission, embarked on his monologue, large portions of which were devoted to the travails of old age!

In ‘Narkalikku Idamillai,' the son asks the father to de-clutter the apartment. This sets the elderly man thinking - on the plight of senior citizens, the generational divide, sorrow at the loss of his father, his migration to the city and above all, the Chair -- his father's chair which carries so many associations for him and which his son wants him to discard.

The lead actor, Madhava Bhoovaraha Moorthy, also the writer and director of the play, displayed his ability to sustain a monologue and the fact that he is a seasoned artist. But it was all so tedious.

The second half of the play thankfully brought in more characters. One was the old man Srinivasan's wife Lakshmi (Malathy Sampath), who put forth some sensible arguments in favour of their son. Another was the son Bhardwaj, played by J. Venkatasubramanian. The third was his friend Mahesh (S.G. Karthik) who let off steam regarding his plight, being caught between two generations – an elderly capricious father and his own demanding children. There were a few others who lent support in varying degrees when the lead actor was willing to give them the space. The scene where Bhardawaj countered the arguments of his father and dealt with his peeves, from cell phones to the lost art of letter writing, was the best part of the play. The arguments were well formulated and expressed.

If only the incidents that made up the monologue were not so swamped in self-pity and sentimentality, the first half too could have been redeemed. Venkatasubramanian was a good foil. But B.R. Jayanthi who played Srinivasan's mother, looked younger than he and was understandably stiff and uncomfortable in the role. The writer who showed his command in the medium had a lot to say on a number of issues, some of which have been heard many times before. But his views on a few were refreshing. The play dealt with the inevitability of change, the need to accept it and evolve with the times. And so one learnt at the end, if one had the will power to stay through the first half.

Power of friendship

If ‘Narkalikku Idamillai' had far too much to say, Mother Creations' ‘Swasam' on the power of friendship had so little. It expressed the value and the depth of friendship but the plot could be summed up in a line. A youth helps his bosom pal overcome a mental crisis through the strength of his love and care.

The play managed to hold the attention of the viewer owing to the acting. Madhu played the invalid credibly with his slow gait, vacant stare and outbursts of rage while Girish was a contrast with his concern, and anxiety lest his friend not return to normality. The resort to cure through unscientific means lowered the credibility of the play written and directed by C.V. Chandramohan.

Political satire

Rail Priya's ‘Naiyandi Vilas' was a political satire. It caricatured the leaders on the Tamil political scene. The fun lay in trying to spot who was who and identify the incidents that were woven in.

The heroine Tamizh's marriage and the ownership of ‘Tamizh Illam' are the issues around which the play is woven. In order to get married to a man of her choice, Tamizh has to get the consent of everyone in her extended family including her authoritative aunt who has a sycophantic admirer, her grandfather whose sons are quarrelling to gain control over his business enterprise, the suit clad uncle who is fanatical about the correct use of Tamil, yet another uncle who has his pet peeves and one more uncle and his son who wish to take over ‘Tamizh Illam.'

The play which was engaging in portions and absurd in a great many others played to a packed hall. It was reminiscent of S.Ve Shekher's offerings but not as humorous or as slickly executed. ‘Naiyandi Vilas' had actors who generally played their parts well and a script writer who showed his familiarity with the nuances of the Tamil political scene and exploited this to raise a few laughs.

Whodunit

Augusto Creations as usual went in for a play where suspense was sought to be built up. ‘Andha Saravananai Chutri,' written and directed by Augusto, was woven around the mysterious happenings in a hospital.

The daughter-father doctor duo, which owns the hospital, is perplexed by the miraculous cures which take place there. But a family friend, who is a detective, says he has found the person responsible. And it turns out to be a humble electrician Saravanan, who works there. The youth who has an obsession about his grandfather's antique car, is being exploited by a miserly man who owns the car. Things then move to an unsatisfactory denouement.

The play stretched one's credibility to the utmost and the acting was often over the top. K. Raja, who played Saravanan, an impassioned actor, was able to portray the character very well. The only problem was he tended to go overboard with the director making no effort to tune down the melodrama. Uma Shankar as the doctor gave a good account of herself.

Whodunits should be based on logic -- little was offered here. The viewer began to dread the references to grandad's car as the young man immediately went into his familiar spin of “When I sat near my grandfather in THAT car…” The interludes in the play featuring the miserly man and his friend who utters home truths, were sometimes amusing. K.S. Palani as the friend put in a breezy performance. But Pothilingam as the detective put in a studied one.

A well-organised festival of this kind offers an opportunity for throwing up fresh talent and infusing novelty into mainstream theatre. Year after year, except for a few cases, one does not see this happen.

But the festival does help lure people away from their homes and the hold of the small screen.