Intrigue, humour, guilt… many an emotion unfolds in Y Gee Mahendra’s latest play, Irandam Ragasiyam.
You realise how true German playwright and director Betrolt Brecht’s quote, ‘A comedian is the best character actor’ is, when you scan the line-up of comedy artists such as Nagesh, Chandrababu and ‘Thengai’ Srinivasan who have graced the Tamil stage and screen. Yet another actor who definitely belongs to this group is Y Gee. Mahendra.
I vividly remember the climax of ‘Ragasiyam Parama Ragasiyam’ wherein his emotional outburst on stage had many in the audience in tears, including this writer. His inherent talent was evident in his first film ‘Navagraham’ under K. Balachander. In the scene where the family searches for Nagesh, Mahendra lifts a tiger doll and looks for Nagesh inside it… it evoked a lot of positive response then.
YGM has dramatised and directed Venkat’s abstract theme into a 100-minute meaningful and enjoyable play titled ‘Irandam Ragasiyam.’ Witty dialogue, many of them driving home a message subtly, prove Venkat’s calibre (story and dialogue).
The play, enacted using just one set – a waiting room of some remote railway station in Andhra Pradesh with a Kanakadurga temple seen through the windows (Padma Stage Kannan) – has three characters who meet each other while they await the arrival of the Howrah Mail. As the train runs late, the stage is set for the drama to unfold.
Shantha Bai (Subha Ganesh), Dr. Narendran (Jayakumar) and politician Nallathambi (YGM) are the three passengers and the diminutive station master is Ganesh (Suppuni) who starts interacting with them as midnight approaches. Many funny moments later, Ganesh talks about the regular appearance of the ghost of ‘Rayalaseema Ramaayi,’ who had committed suicide near the station.
Suddenly, the lights go off and smoke fills the stage, and a tall, good-looking woman appears near the window and walks into the hall. While Shantha Bai and Dr. Nanjundan are able to see and talk to her, Nallathambi can’t see her and so, scorns at them for making a fool of him. The re-recording score (music by Alex) at that moment adds to the mood.
Nallathambi decides to rest in the Station Master’s room and the other two quiz the woman. Aishwarya, as the mystery woman, proves that she is a chip off the old block. Her body language is apt and enhances the proceedings to a new level. Kalai Ravi’s liberal use of laser beams in his lighting whenever Aishwarya appears on stage, makes her character even more intriguing.
She reveals Dr. Nanjundan’s past and asks him to recall an incident where a patient, declared dead by him, returns to life and how the patient’s wife swears to expose and sue them. Fearing loss of reputation, the MD Dr. Ram (ably enacted by T.S.Raman) asks Dr. Nanjundan to kill the patient to prove that the patient was really dead. Here, special mention must be made of veteran actor Brinda (as wife of the dead patient) who is perfect with her inflections. Jayakumar as Dr.Nanjundan, shows his bewilderment effectively, and his body language throughout raises his performance to another level. Aishwarya next targets Shantha Bai. She making her repent for her action in persuading her drunk husband to drive her to a function. He gets killed that evening in an accident. Subha Ganesh as Shantha Bai is an apt selection.
She then takes on the past of an insidious Nallathambi, which makes him nervous and ponder. He promptly returns the bribe money he had taken from the station master promising to secure engineering college admission for his son.
Unable to bear the torture, Shantha Bai and Dr.Nanjundan plan to kill her and succeed too. Relieved, they are just about to leave when Nallathambi stops them. And they the very woman they had killed earlier, holding his hand and accompanying him!
Nallathambi becomes emotional and asks the mysterious lady to remain ever with him so that he can walk upright in the righteous path. Y.Gee.M proves his mettle in this scene. But who this lady is? Watch the play for the answer…
With his typical Madras accent, YGM easily slips into the role of Nallathambi with ease. His 52 years of stage experience helps him carry the play on his shoulders.
This is a play which has an important message for all of us. Despite heavy rains, it was heartening to see an almost full house at Bharat Kalachar that included many TV actors. The play was staged under the auspices of ABBAS.