The jungle is abuzz with mixed reactions to the lion king’s announcement. Who of all the creatures was going to win the 50 km marathon and get the coveted prize? The news reaches far and wide, and the animals prepare to run the race – all for the "paati sutta vada" which the winner gets from the king himself.

Thus begins the Tamil musical ‘Paati Vadai Kaaka Nari’ featuring the NalandaWay Children Theatre group. As the children pounce on stage with masks fixed aptly on painted faces, mimicking and moving in sync with preset voices and music, the tempo is set for a performance that promises fun and laughter.

The famous "paati sutta vada" is getting done in another part of the jungle. The old lady gets the monkey crew in her vada factory into action. They mix the ingredients and make a giant vada, fit for the marathon winner. The vada is closely guarded by the team when a clever but hungry crow swoops down, and flees with it. There is commotion in the jungle; only a skulk of foxes are happy that their scheming will fetch them the vada somehow. They woo the crow but in vain. There are many others vying for the vada for very genuine reasons, while at the same time a rooster police team is put on the job to nab the vada stealer. The parody digresses at this point to another known story – that of the hare and the tortoise. The race begins anyway.

All the animals fight it out with a zeal that sets the crow thinking. "How easily I stole the vada," he wonders, "when all of my fellow creatures struggle to get it? I will return the vada to the king," says the crow. And when he does give the vada back, the lion king most certainly pardons him. The race is about to end. There are just two competitors now – the hare and the tortoise. Everyone waits with bated breath and it is a close finish. It’s the tortoise who wins the race after high drama. The animals turn rapturous when the lion king hands over the vada to the winner and says, "Henceforth this vada will be called ‘aama vadai’."

This rib-tickling musical was no doubt the result of some brilliant minds who totally believed in hard work. The children did their roles with a professionalism expected of seasoned artistes. Their gestures and expressions were well-suited to the parts they played. Stage lighting had its flip side though when coloured lights were made to blink ever so often for an add-on effect which was in fact painfully hard on the eye. The scene with the sick buffalo seemed irrelevant to a young audience.

What did matter, however, was that the children enjoyed being themselves. The applause they received for their uninhibited enthusiasm is yet another tale.