A blind woman takes on three con-men in Maham Enterprises’ Tamil play Shakthi

It is the 1970s. Indira Gandhi is the prime minister of India and actor Jaishankar is at the peak of his career. In a non-descript street in Madras called Park Avenue, a cold-blooded murder transpires. And the murderer is on the loose. He is on the lookout for something that will make him rich — a map to top-secret information on national security. He enters No. 15, Park Avenue Street in search of it, along with two others. What happens behind the doors of that house? Does the inhabitant Shakthi, a blind woman, fall for their tricks? Tamil play Shakthi narrated this story to a edge-of-the-seat audience at Corporation Kalaiarangam on Saturday. Music director Anirudh of ‘Kolaveri’ fame composed the background score.

The play was directed by Madhuvanthi Arun, daughter of renowned actor Y. Gee. Mahendra. It was based on the 1960s’ Hollywood suspense-thriller Wait Until Dark starring Audrey Hepburn. The cast, which has been trained by Y. Gee. Mahendra, paid a tribute to their mentor through the playon the occasion of Y. Gee’s United Amateur Artistes (UAA) completing 60 years as a successful theatre troupe. UAA was started by Y. G. Parthasarathy in 1952.

Actor Sureshwar started out as a child actor. Also the associate-director for the play, he excelled in the role of murderer Albert who would do anything for money. With a clean-shaven head, dark glasses and a black jacket, he resembled a typical villain as portrayed in Tamil cinema. Ravi and his dithering sidekick Nambi, the other con-men, were entertaining.

Madhuvanthi portrayed the role of the blind woman, Shakthi very well.

There was yet another character that drew in the audience — it was the revolving stage. Designed by National Award-winning art director Thotta Tharani, the set, which consisted of a house and a photo studio, was the highlight of the play. One moment, we witnessed a scene in a living room and the next, we were at the doorway of No.15, Park Avenue. In one gigantic turn, the stage transformed before our eyes.

The fast-paced narrative did have some glitches. At the climax where Shakthi confronts Albert, she hurls a chemical used for washing photos at him. Only a few scenes before, her husband, a still photographer, warns her to be careful with the chemical. “It could impair one’s vision” he tells her. But the chemical fails to harm Albert. He yells in pain but miraculously recovers! (“What? I thought he will lose his vision” someone in the audience mumbled.) In typical Tamil cinema style, Shakthi’s husband arrives with the police in the end and all is well. A part of the proceeds from the play was donated for the cause of the visually-impaired in the city.

Shakthi was originally directed by Y Gee Mahendra 20 years ago. The revolving stage was part of the production even back then. It was manually rotated by stage hands, and today, it is the actors themselves who turn it around. There are no machines involved!