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Lofty theme tackled well

Dummies Drama sprang a pleasant surprise with a play that was different. KAUSALYA SANTHANAM describes how.

"Vinodaya Chitham" ... philosophical overtones

WEAVING PHILOSOPHICAL concepts into a theme centring around the family and embellishing it with touches of humour, Dummies Drama has come out with one of the best plays seen in recent times on the sabha circuit. The well directed ``Vinodaya Chitam" (which means `a contented mind') is inspired by the Bhaja Govindam line: ``Vitham Theya Vinodaya Chitam" (be content with whatever wealth you have earned). It deals with the concepts of attachment, ego and the illusory nature of existence and achievement in an enjoyable and not heavy handed way.

The playwright Sreevathson says he was prompted to write the work after reading the ``Garuda Puranam" in which the Atma and Yama have a conversation as they travel together.

``In life's graph I'm at the peak. I would be quite happy to die today," says the successful executive and father of three on his 25th wedding anniversary. He feels he has it all — a loving wife, affectionate children and a successful career. He little realises that his wish would come true as Death comes to claim him that night.

There have been numerous films where the hero is transported to the underworld or the God of Death comes down to earth generating a lot of `humour.' But here, Death is not the Yama we are familiar with — crowned and bejewelled and complete with noose. Here Death, clad in stark black is more like an avant garde theatre artiste and behaves like a sophisticated yuppie. He speaks in short staccato sentences and is grimly witty.

When the protagonist Parasurama Iyer finds himself travelling rapidly along with Death, he pleads with the reaper to let him return to earth as he has responsibilities to fulfil. He wants to get his daughters married and hold the fort till his son, working abroad, takes over charge from him.

Why do you have so much attachment — to life, to your family, asks Death. But he allows Iyer to return on the condition he would accompany him and remain incognito till the latter wishes to leave. When Iyer returns, troubles come thick and fast. His wife is diagnosed with a rare disease, his elder daughter lets him down and his son comes home unexpectedly. His boss bypasses him for the much awaited promotion. As the protagonist faces one reversal after another, on the home front and in the office, Death reminds him constantly that Fate and Fortune are one and the same. The protagonist refutes this. But he is finally forced to agree about the indispensability of the individual in life's pattern and is ready for the inevitable journey.

The play showed how a well worked script and dialogue can make a great difference to its overall quality. Giridharan, the director, as Kaladhuta and Sreevathson as Parasurama Iyer carried the burden of the play with ease. Pursed up lips and an inscrutable expression made Giridharan an effective figure. Sreevathson got into the spirit of the role thoroughly but his diction troubled him in a couple of places.

The supporting artistes played their roles well. Rahul as the young managing director was very easy with his lines and Hemalatha, as Iyer's daughter-in-law was expressive. Especially good was Sridhar as the loyal friend of Iyer. His exchanges with Kaladhuta, whose identity he is unaware of, led to some entertaining portions though at places, there is an excessive play on words.

``Vinodaya Chitam," which won several awards at the Kodai Nataka Vizha of Karthik Fine Arts, is a big step forward for Dummies Drama. It shows how it is possible to please the mainstream audience and yet make a detour from the tried and tired path.

The play was staged at the Mylapore Fine Arts Club on May 15.

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