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War — new interpretation

``Nithyakalyani"... evoking images through music.

DIRECTOR PRASANNA Ramaswamy once again explores the haunting theme of war in ``Nithyakalyani," the flower that flourishes in the cemeteries and has a close association with desolation and death. The Tamil play was presented by her Paadini theatre group at the Alliance Francaise auditorium on November 27 and 28.

Prasanna wove her play around two statements: ``War is not an event" as depicted by the media and ``War does not break out but is initiated." Na Muthuswamy's ``Bagapirivinai," V. Arumugam's ``Thoongigal" and Prasanna's own inputs were braided together to present the disastrous effects of war on countries, communities and the environment. The role of the media in glorifying war, the manipulative tactics of those in authority who help perpetuate the scourge, the exploitative stratagem of so called mediators, the impact of conflict on the common man who is maimed and rendered homeless, and finally, the bewilderment of the innocent who are unsure about who their enemy is — these were some of the many aspects that came through in the play. The poignant lullaby and the songs were the emotional bedrock of the work, evoking images of the mother and providing both mood and melody. Set in suitable Carnatic ragas — Kurinji, Mohanam and Nadhanamakriya — and rendered superbly by the young artistes Akila and Gayathri, they were the highlight of the play. The mother image which Prasanna wished to evoke as a sustaining and not a procreative one came through even without the use of a figurative image — mainly through the use of the music.

Effective colours

The introduction by Prasanna enhanced the elements of theatre through the repetition of lines and the use of the scarlet curtain painted on the reverse with skulls.

There was an effective employment of red and black in the design of the production contrasting with the silver skirts of the women and the shirts of the men to show the escape from reality. Though the poetry in Arumugam's text was telling in its impact, the story of the young man who loses the woman he loves in the plane crash engineered by terrorists seemed trite. Muthuswamy's text too, though charged with satire, did not possess the special touch that usually transforms even his prose into poetry. ``Bagapirivinai" spoke of how war is glorified as manly and of how mediators further their interests through the use of the familiar tale of the monkey which divides the goodies among the two cats.

Phrases from various styles — Bharatanatyam, Tai-chi, Theru-k-koothu and Kalari — were used in the movements of the young actors which included apart from the women, Anandasamy, Babu, Palani, Ramesh and Somasundar. They performed with enthusiasm and energy and with an understanding of their roles. The introduction of the funeral scene with the bier being carried in procession was not a happy one for not only did it have a stale feel but it also broke up the tension built up till then. The filmy dance in contrast worked well as it provided relief and was executed with the right degree of parody. The choreography and the music were by Prasanna Ramaswamy in ``Nithyakalyani" and the lighting by photo artiste Prasanna. Benitha Perciyal had created the evocative sets.

Prasanna is able to give fresh interpretations to the theme of war each time she deals with it. But ``Nithyakalyani" was not a production on the same scale as her other work and did not seem as inspired. It was not as layered as her previous productions and hence failed to have a similar impact on the viewer.


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