Thrissur: A woman caught in adultery was taken before Jesus Christ by teachers of law and the Pharisees. They asked Christ, “In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”
Jesus straightened up and told them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
The Malayalam play, ‘Ayussinte Pusthakam’ (The Book of Life), staged at the Second International Theatre Festival of Kerala (ITFoK-2009), opened with this scene. The play, based on a novel by C.V. Balakrishnan and directed by Suveeran, is a searing exploration of sin and sexuality through the story of three generations of men in a family. The production notes read so: “The play stands as an independent text with its dynamic but semantically loaded stream of situations. Committed only to the reality of the psychological realm, the play is a daring attempt to deconstruct the oppressive mechanism of religious orthodoxy. Symbols get fused into the totality of dramatic experience.”
The discourse is built primarily on a single incident of child sexual abuse. An old man is caught abusing a girl. Torn by guilt, he ends his life.
From there, the drama enters a maze of questions related to love, sex, sin, morals, guilt, marriage and celibacy posed through several sequences. They include those on a priest falling hopelessly in love, a widow giving in to her desires and discussions between priests riven by doubt and conflict. With many issues to deal with, the viewer struggles to catch up with the dense discourse. This is not surprising because the very concept of sin has had dense, varied interpretation in the Christian world. Right from the time Paul had introduced the doctrine of original sin in Christian theology and Augustine developed it, the concept has been widely debated. Striking visual design, accentuated by tasteful use of light and colours, perks up the play. Water is effectively used as a symbol. As the play ends, the questions it provokes haunt the viewers: “Can life be sinless? Are not strict moral and religious codes interfering with our personal emancipation?”
What then is the solution? Friedrich Nietzsche found it in his vision of the Superman or the Overman: “His destiny is to renounce the current disintegrating framework of values, and to mark his own place in the world according to his will power.”