On the occasion of World Theatre Day, the local people of Puthenthope got-together to celebrate the coastal village’s legacy in theatre

For several decades following Independence, a fishing village near the city was known for its love for football and for theatre. Often, after they were done eking out a living in the sea, the residents would gather in a local library in the village to discuss how to enthral audiences, who would gather either in the church or in front of crude stages built on the beach.Every Christmas, the villagers even used to host a week-long fete that celebrated the best of Malayalam theatre.

In the village of Puthenthope near Perumathura, on the outskirts of the city, an incredible legacy of theatre sleeps cozy, particularly in a 58-year old vayanasala (reading room/library) at the junction. Such evenings charged with theatre may be a thing of the past but on the occasion of World Theatre Day (March 27) a group of villagers under the leadership of Alencier Ley, theatre and cine artiste, paid rich tribute to Puthenthope’s legacy in theatre.

Nadakam, as the performance was called, was staged before a large audience gathered on the beach. It was a dramatic step towards reviving the past glory of a beautiful beachside village.

The word ‘nadakam’ is a blend of ‘nadu’ and ‘akam’- ‘place’ and ‘inside’. Alencier, introducing the programme promised fellow villagers that his purpose was to bring out the soul of the place on to the stage. On the dais on the beach were Murali Gopy, actor-scriptwriter who inaugurated the event, actor Indrans, director M.P. Sukumaran Nair and Father Antony of St. Ignatius Church.

As the inaugural ceremony proceeded, truth slowly dawned on the audience as well as the dignitaries on the stage that everything that night was part of the drama, sans a structured script. They all became the characters of Nadakam. Questions and ideas were freely exchanged between the guests and the audience. Only a cold blast from the sea that might have abated the heat from the spotlights and the humidity in the air, stood in the way.

“This could be the ideal spot to celebrate World Theatre Day,” said Murali Gopy inaugurating the event, “as theatre evolved from these open platforms.” The guests were required to drive nails into a wooden plank on stage as part of the performance. At the end of the event, the board was flipped to reveal that they were driving nails into a cross.

“This is how,” Alencier explained, “we wound the nature, the mother earth through our insensitive and careless activities.”

The two-hour performance began with artistes from Sopanam Theatre rendering soulful Kavalam Narayana Panikkar songs.

The spotlight soon fell on two elderly men from the village who were on the stage. They were requested to discuss the genesis of the local library.

Jai Hind, the library, which initiated many cultural and social events in the area with the help of the church, was started in 1946 with the aid of the local people who lived in Singapore and sympathised with the Indian National Army. The dialogue gave a sense of orientation to the youth. Only the framework was drama, the dialogue was unscripted gold.

The performance, staged with the help of recorded and live acts, weaved in and out of social and environmental issues relevant to Puthenthope.

Alencier, who knew where to drive the nail hard into the minds of the people, pulled out all stops as he portrayed a boy (a solo performance by a boy) getting entangled in the plastic with which he was playing.

“We should take a hard stand against plastic, or else our beach will rot,” he warned the audience.