In the 1970s, this Tamil play was staged with police protection and tickets were sold in black. “I remember when Endru Thaniyum Intha Sudhanthira Thaagam was staged in NKT Kalamandapam in Triplicane there was a massive crowd curious to see it,” recalls veteran actor Neelu, who played the role of Yamadharman in Cho S.Ramaswamy's political satire set in heaven.
“It was a sensation during elections and a tense atmosphere would prevail wherever we staged the play. Soda bottles were flung at the stage during a performance at Madurai.”
Tamil theatre enthusiasts in the city have reason to celebrate, for the yesteryear play known for its crisp and witty dialogues is going to performed next month by United Visuals headed by ‘TV' S.Varadharajen.
“We are so excited that we are enacting a play that Cho's troupe Viveka Fine Arts staged over than 100 times. It will be our first major mythological production and we are stitching the costumes rather than hiring them,” says Mr. Varadharajen, who will play the role of Narada.
The plan is to not mimic or copy the original actors and their actions. “We are working hard to ensure that the dialogue delivery and timing are right,” he adds.
On the character he plays, Mr. Varadharajen says: “Though there is a saying that Narada's doings would end in good, that's not the case in this play. It only creates chaos and taking democracy to the heavens ends in a riot of laughter, which the audience will love.”
A politician in heaven would only mean all hell would break loose. And that is what happens when Nallathambi (previously played by Cho's brother Rajagopal alias Ambi) lands in heaven and lays the foundation for democracy there. Leaders including, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subramania Bharathi, and mythological characters Lord Narayana, Kuberan, Indira Durvasa and Vasishta find themselves in heaven and watch democracy play out in the otherwise peaceful realm.
On the rationale for the script, Cho Ramaswamy says: “Indian democracy is a particular brand of democracy and everyone knows that it is not a functioning system at all, so I exported it to devalokam to see what would happen there.” He recalled how actor Sivaji Ganesan donned the role of prompter for actor Senthamarai, who played the role of poet Subramania Bharati in one performance.
“V.R.Srinivasan, who usually played the role of Bharathiyar was sick, so Senthamarai who was in Sivaji Ganesan's troupe was called in. When Sivaji heard this, he came and took over prompting,” he adds.
“The kind of interest Sivaji had in theatre was amazing. At that time he was at the peak of his career too. In fact he used to tell me that Ambi, my brother, was a great actor and that he came to see the play to watch Ambi act.”
S. Rajagopal (Ambi) says that the troupe seldom trusted others when it comes to staging Cho's plays. “We have been performing Cho's plays ourselves. But now that all of us have retired, we thought if we give it to others, the audience would have an opportunity to watch the same characters come alive once again.”
United Visuals will stage the play from March 21 for Kartik Fine Arts at Narada Gana Sabha.