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Tenali tales retold

Manu Remakant
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Drama The life and times of legendary court jester Tenali Raman were brought alive on stage in the capital city recently. Manu Remakant

Tenali Raman lived centuries ago. For many, he was just a clever court jester in the palace of Krishnadevarayar. But, up close, there was a human being in him who was deeply concerned about the welfare of the people. The points he drove home were sheathed in humour, but they hit in all the right places. Raman appeased the king, pulled many a prank even on the subject of his own death, and met his end in the most ironical manner. His death was also dismissed as another one of his many tricks.

The play, ‘Tenali Raman', presented by Aksharakala Theatres, regaled the audience in the packed Karthika Thirunal Theatre auditorium in the capital city with the story of the legendary jester.

The audience was given a taste of the period and the land of Tenali even before the curtain went up through a few characters subtly planted among the audience. Raman, the one who is blessed by the goddess, his wife and his mother were on their way to the palace of Krishnadevarayar when the stage came to life. On the way, he met the people of Maratakapuri who suffer because of the hazardous pesticides used in their fields! Contemporary themes were dexterously interpolated into the old text to make us imagine a Raman in modern times. Characters took turns to personify time and reminded the audience that the challenges Raman faced in the court of Krishnadevarayar still exist and continue to perplex honest officers of the State. What might have easily become a forced and contrived element in the plot was presented with masterful restraint on stage. The various pranks that the hero pulled on his friends, especially the King, had the audience in stitches. The Thathacharya, the chief priest, the villain in the play, was more of a caricature than a full-blown character. The last scene was touching. Raman, who played with the theme of his death many a time to prove a point to the King, could not convince his friend that he was really dying. “It is another one of Raman's tricks. Tell him I am not falling for it,” said Krishnadevarayer, dismissing the messenger who comes to convey the sad news that Raman was dying because of a snakebite.

Joshi Nambikkadavil slipped into the role of Raman with ease. Kottarakkara Sreekumar, Rahim Uloor, Aralummoodu Shaji, Ajith Sreekaryam, Latha and Shantha K. Pillai were the other artistes who performed well. The costumes, the props and the lighting recreated the period of Krishnadevarayar.

Songs by lyricist and former Chief Secretary K. Jayakumar took the play to a a new realm. “We need somebody like Tenali Raman now to caution our leaders whenever they err," said Meenambalam Santhosh, who directed the play. Rajan Kizhanela wrote the script.

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