Ibrahim Vengara’s popular play ‘Padanilam’ was staged to mark the revival of Tripti Arts, a Palakkad-based drama troupe.
At a time when many drama troupes have disappeared from the theatre scene of Kerala, the revival of Tripti Arts, Palakkad (TAP), after a hiatus of 20 years is good news indeed for theatre buffs. The event was made memorable by the staging of Ibrahim Vengara’s popular play ‘Padanilam’ to a packed audience at Palakkad Municipal Town Hall.
Formed in 1975, TAP had been active as a professional troupe for over a decade. Theatre personalities like Kalidas Puthumana and P. K. Gopi were the moving forces behind the troupe. TAP has been given a second lease of life by a team of young theatre activists. That in itself is a shot in the arm for theatre in Kerala, which has been struggling to find a space for itself for the past 10 years. The TAP team staged the play after training for two months.
Needs of society
“‘Padanilam’ highlights the bonds between two neighbours belonging to different religions. It fits in with the needs of present-day society,” says M. Rajagopal, director of the play. In a telephone conversation, Kozhikode-based playwright Ibrahim Vengara, who had first directed the award-winning play in 1987, pointed out the popularity of the play. “The play was premiered at the Kozhikode Town Hall in 1987 and was staged at 265 venues in that season. Over the years, the play has been staged at over 1,100 venues.” Vengara was not part of the play that was staged in Palakkad.
The plot of ‘Padanilam’ revolves round the struggle for survival of a Nambudiri household and a Muslim household and some unfortunate incidents that happen to both the families. It depicts the travails of Suryanarayanan Nambudiri and his family after the implementation of land reforms in Kerala. The Muslim family also pass through tough times.
The play opens with the execution of the Khatteeb, played by Cheramangalam Chamunni. It then recounts the events that led the Khateeb to the gallows. In a way, the play states that it is circumstances that force even humanists like the Khateeb to turn into killers. Sugunan Azhikode and Sainuddeen Mundakkayam excelled in their respective roles of the young Khatteeb and Thaneenkori Anthrumanis. ‘Padanilam’ depicts the inter-dependence of the families of the Khatteeb and Suryanarayanan Nambudiri (played by N. Binduraj). Khatteeb’s young daughter Jameela (played by Nimmi) and Sreedevi Antarjanam (played by Sati Menon) are the only female characters in the play. Sreedevi is mentally-challenged and it is Jameela who is a great source of comfort to her. The play depicts the changing socio-economic equations and its effects on the family. An ode to the bonds that break barriers of religion, the play also seeks to explore what causes communal tension. The character of Kanjavu Haji, enacted by K Narayanankutty, is also striking.
After watching the two-hour-long show, one gets the feeling that theatre activists need to do a great amount of home work to bring the audience back to theatres To cite an instance, the costumes, sets, lighting and the use of the stage sometimes proved insufficient to reflect the moods of the play.