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Very little to rave about

The drama festival organised by Kartik Fine Arts recently, left the discerning viewer disappointed, says KAUSALYA SANTHANAM.

A scene from "3 Point 42" ... fixation for the depiction of evil. — Pic by N. Sridharan.

THE PLAYS, ``3 point 42" and ``Appa Vandaar" were among the nine presented at the 15th Kartik Fine Arts Summer drama festival held in the city recently. While ``3 Point 42" was novel, ``Appa Vandaar" was just a collection of scenes mirroring the happenings in a middle class family.

Prayatna's ``3 Point 42" written and directed by Absar met with a rousing response from the audience. The tempo and the unusual theme contributed to this. The play dealt with a subject not seen before — the world of athletics and sports. But it was over the top with the protagonist giving a highly exaggerated performance as a man racked by his demons. The scheming and the jealousy, the repeated depiction of villainy made the play unendurable after a point.

Justin is a celebrated athlete who has created splendid records. Impossibly arrogant and rude, he treats those around him with great contempt. His devoted assistant Badri bears the brunt of his wrath. The slightest excuse is enough for the athlete to fly into a rage. You wonder why Badri puts up with it till you learn later it is because Justin reminds him of his late son, an equally bad tempered youth. All the more reason one would think for him to steer clear of the character. Justin unknowingly proves to be the saviour of a poor man Masanam who is desperate to have his ailing mother operated upon.

The youth joins his employ and becomes fanatically devoted to Justin. When the athlete gets confined to a wheelchair after a car accident, his devotion only increases. Pygmalion-like, Justin moulds Masanam, whom he renames Mohan, into an athlete in order to bring his rival Girish to his knees. But is horrified when his protege beats his own records, the last straw being the 3.42 in the 1,500 metres. This despite his plans to make Mohan stumble and lose.

The unsatisfactory ending had Mohan giving up his all for his master and the remorse stricken Justin repenting the deed the rest of his long, long life!

The use of the life doll Caesar skilfully manipulated by Kaushik added to the novelty of the play. The device is familiar to those who read western fiction or watch western films. The inflexions in voice and the manner in which the story was taken forward through Caesar were appreciable.

There was no female character, which was unusual too.

Absar with a permanent sneer and a sinister demeanour made for a diabolic Justin but he was ear splitting and there was absolutely no restraint in his performance.

Kaushik as Mohan was in contrast quite low key and gave an understanding portrayal. Girish (Girish) was an apt foil to Justin while Ravishankar played the long-suffering assistant Badri.

Prayatna seems to have a fixation for the depiction of evil. It became tedious to watch Absar, a picture of unredeemed evil, play the big bad wolf who is out to sink his fangs into anyone who dares cross his path. His treatment of subordinates was shocking and quite unacceptable in this time and age. Mohan's repeated reference to his love for his mother was tiring. Sets, lights and music were quite good in the play.

Just incidents

If ``3 Point 42" was different yet unsatisfactory thanks to a theme which led nowhere, Gurukulam's (The Original Boy's Company-95) ``Appa Vandaar" was an unremarkable exercise. Does the faithful portrayal of incidents from the daily life of middle class families constitute a play? The message finally turned out that though a son or daughter may be appearing for the Plus 2 examinations, the parents should not make a fuss but welcome relatives and friends with open arms for human bonds cannot be replaced. The bogey of the Plus Two did not translate into appropriate situations to merit its emphasis in the play.

The acting by the main artistes helped make the play viewable. Malathi Sampath as the mother of the student was excellent. Viswanathan Ramesh as her husband who has both his mother and father-in-law visit his household to undergo surgery in the city for cataract and hernia gave good support. Up to the interval, the play ambled along with the credit card, the telephone, the cable TV and the cup of coffee being referred to frequently.

The scenes then shifted to the hospital and to stale jokes on patient-attendant mix-ups. When we emerge we are so well educated on hernia that we can spot the symptoms as soon as they appear! The focus then moves to the children and to examinations.

One actually thought that the couple coped very well with the health crises of their in-laws and were quite good at extending warmth and hospitality.

Obviously, the playwright didn't think so and had the student's grandmother deliver a sermon on how one's door should be kept open all the time regardless of the stress caused by parental expectations. The mother-in-law's (Jayanthi ) discomfort with her nine yard sari was evident as she constantly adjusted it. It is necessary that artistes are comfortable with their costume especially if it is supposed to be their everyday attire. Sriraman as the elderly hernia patient and Subramanian as his rather imbecile son were convincing while Poorvaja as the sister of the Plus 2 student stood out for her smart delivery of lines. The play was written and directed by Madhava Bhoovarahamoorthy.

`Noble' man

Nadakakkaran presented ``Ezhavathu Veedu" by Bombay Kannan. However well intentioned the director-writer might have been, the lack of sensitivity displayed in dealing with the theme of widow remarriage made it difficult for this critic to watch the play for more than a few scenes. A youth sets out to marry a recently widowed young woman fired by the spirit of sacrifice and intent on providing her a ``fresh lease of life." The whole story of this noble young man is narrated by an author to her brother. So they take up vantage positions at the corner of the stage from time to time, discussing the fictitious characters and commenting on the progress of the story (not a very subtle device).

The young woman who is still mourning her husband enters into this marriage only to please her parents. She is constantly seeking her late husband's approval for her decisions and actions. When the noble hero's halo appeared to get bigger and bigger and his friend who visits the couple began posing the most insensitive questions to the young woman, it was time to make a quiet exit. Social themes unless handled with care are best left alone.

Bombay Kannan in the past showed a flair for comic themes, and one wishes he had confined himself to them.

The Kodai Nataka Vizha of the Kartik Fine Arts was held in the Mylapore Fine Arts auditorium, as the customary venue, the R.R. Sabha, is undergoing renovation. Hopefully, it will transform into an air-conditioned hall as the sweltering heat detracts from the viewing of even a fairly good play during the summer.

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