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Messages, subtle yet clear

"Upadesam Seivathu UAA" ... a mix of comedy and profundity.

"WATCH, LAUGH, enjoy and deliberate" — as ARS's voice comes out loud and clear you sit back to see what UAA has up its sleeve this time round in "Upadesam Seivadhu UAA" its latest production, staged at the Bharat Kalachar, recently. This cluster of five short plays seems a different attempt.

Written by Venkat and dramatised and directed by Y. Gee. Mahendra, the five stories have been loosely adapted from stories by Bhagwan Sri Sathya Sai Baba and Osho and from the Bhagavad Gita and Zen Buddhism, and all of them presented in a light vein. The last segment alone is original. If "Oka Chinna Katha," as ARS referred to Sri Sathya Sai Baba's story on the Guru and Sishya has a dig at the level of intelligence of man, Osho's tale on the discordant political notes and religious disharmony and dogmas that plague our lives and distract us from the vital issues on hand, are deftly told through "Gnanakinaru." Metaphor plays a significant part here. The former is crisp, humorous and thought provoking. But the Osho-based idea has humour that's predictable and contrived — the MLA Damukkusundari, for instance.

The third narration involves Geethopadesam, which advocates only one religion — the religion of love. "Fire Fire," as the play is called, showcases man's self-centredness and attachment to worldly things that only lead him to misery. It has exaggeration, caricature and slapstick but it also has a strong message. Aided by impressive dialogue that conveys the message with unmistakeable clarity and laughs at human foibles, the profound philosophy of Zen Buddhism underscores all worldly achievement as deceptive. The aim of the last play, "Mounam Sangadam," is more to tickle than to preach. But the scatology at certain points makes you squirm.

A noteworthy aspect of "Upadesam ... " is that at no point is the lesson imparted explicit. It is left to the viewer to infer and comprehend. Y. Gee. Mahendra takes up a prominent role in each but creates the best impact when he is Lord Siva in human form. Nagalakshmi's comic strain as the English-speaking wife in "Mounam Sangadam" is enjoyable. Neither can one forget the clean humour provided by A. Girish, the fire officer from Kerala.

Artistes in the wings have to be more careful when moving about. Seeing them hovering in the background distracts the viewer. And that goes for those in charge of the props too. When Lord Siva is engaged in serious conversation with the depressed young man, you have a lone figure crawling to the Lingam in the `sanctorum' and adjusting its position before lying low, literally!

Tamil theatre has few takers. The rows of empty chairs were proof enough. So the players in the fray prefer to make it as fun-filled as possible. They just cannot afford to sermonise, they feel. But UAA dares to — very subtly, and with its brand of humour intact. Into its 52nd year now, it has come out with this five-in-one comedy cocktail that offers some interesting perspectives.


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