Rehearsals were on at the Lenin Balavadi, two days ahead of the theatrical rendition of novelist C.V. Raman Pillai’s classic work of historical fiction, ‘Marthanda Varma’. Actors sauntered on the makeshift stage, trying to recollect the complex lines scripted back in 1891. Helped along by prompters, they know they cannot afford to misplace even one syllable while paying homage to a stalwart of Malayalam literature on occasion of his 155 birth anniversary.

‘Marthanda Varma’ would never fail to have a profound impact on the audience, said writer George Onakkoor. The theme of power struggle helped it transcend time and space.

“Moreover, every character in Raman Pillai’s novels possesses a certain style of rendition that mirrors their personality and makes them distinct. For a writer, it is a very difficult trait to master and I believe he is the only figure in Malayalam literature to have done it so expertly,” Dr. Onakoor told The Hindu.

Unhindered by modern lighting or sound effects, the play will rely on the actors’ delivery of Raman Pillai’s words to portray a tumultuous phase of transition. Director N. Rajan Nair has ensured that the actors have a clear understanding of the script and the storyline, said actor M.V. Gopakumar. He was involved in the 1991 production that marked the centenary of the classic’s publication.

Earlier show

He recalled the stellar performances by Mavelikkara Ponnamma and T.R. Sukumaran Nair though dialogues were not necessarily delivered then with the same in-depth understanding that is insisted on now.

General secretary of the C.V. Raman Pillai National Foundation P. Venugopalan said cramming the details of the novel into a two-and-a-half hour production was daunting. “Had there been no time constraint, I would’ve put together a script that lasted till dawn,” he said, adding that if the organisation was approached after the play to perform elsewhere, they would do so.

The play will be staged at 5.30 p.m. on May 19 at the N. Krishna Pillai Foundation Theatre at Nandavanam.