Taut treatment would have made ‘Iruttula Thedatheenga’ more absorbing.Suganthy Krishnamachari

The promise of sudden wealth is guaranteed to make people unscrupulous and this is what happens in Stage Friends’ play ‘Iruttula Thedatheenga,’ by Komal Swaminathan, first performed in the 1980s. Some changes have been made in keeping with the times, and the revived version is directed by Komal’s daughter Dharini.

A convict serving a life sentence tells police constable Bommaiah, rich landlord Chokkalingam, and cook Muppidathi, about a stolen gold idol of Nataraja. But the convict dies before he can give them details about where it is hidden, with the result that the three men are left groping in the dark. All they know is that the idol is hidden somewhere beneath Chokkalingam’s house, which he has rented out to Professor Saranathan.

As the search for the idol progresses, scruples go for a toss. Loyalties are forgotten as each one is prepared to betray the other.

At times politically incorrect, this is a story about how even the distant promise of wealth can corrupt even the seemingly incorruptible.

Moments of humour

The play wasn’t rib ticklingly funny, but it did have its moments of humour.

The rough and ready villains, and quaint names such as Kattari, reminded one of old MGR films. Bommaiah’s repeated gesture of digging up the foundations of the house grated on one’s nerves.

The situation of a fake swamiji out to make money, and spouting ridiculous mumbo jumbo has been mined for laughs many times. But it did have a contemporary resonance, because fake godmen reeling out flamboyant nonsense are still around. The parody of the ‘Daruni’ scene from ‘Thiruvilaiyadal’ fell flat.

Perhaps the best acting came from Tambaram Srinivasan, as religious minded, orthodox Malayappa Bhagavatar. His was a minor role, but his switchover from harmless bhagavatar to clever schemer, was endearing.

As more and more people are let in on the secret, pandemonium breaks out, and the audience is told that this mirrors the squabbling in Indian society.

The play ends on a platitudinous note - the youth of the country can lead the country out of the current mess. The message seemed rather forced, and resulted in a tame ending. ‘Iruttula Thedatheenga’ showed that it is possible to elicit laughs without resorting to double entendres. However, at two hours, the play was a bit tedious, and could do with some trimming.