Dance

Chandu Menon’s descendant adapts Indulekha into a musical

Chaithanya Unni

Chaithanya Unni   | Photo Credit: Jithu Jithin

Chaithanya Unni, great-great-granddaughter of O. Chandu Menon, on her dance production based on his landmark novel, Indulekha

As a college student, Chaithanya Unni often tried to put herself into the skin of Indulekha, the beautiful, accomplished and independent heroine created by her great-great-grandfather, O. Chandu Menon in Indulekha, the landmark novel in Malayalam. Many years down the lane, when she gets to portray the character in a “theatre musical”, she is excited and also a bundle of nerves. “It is a challenge and responsibility for me. I hope I can do justice to the work and the character,” she says.

The production is not a page by page adaptation of the landmark novel. “It is about a perspective, a journey through the mind of Chandu Menon. We are presenting a new dance style that you can’t compartmentalise into a particular genre,” says Chaithanya, without giving away any details about the presentation.

Visionary approach

Chaithanya Unni

Chaithanya Unni   | Photo Credit: Jithu Jithin

A dermatologist in Gold Coast, Australia, Chaithanya remembers hearing a lot about Chandu Menon. A radical and visionary, he had reflected upon the society of his times through his characters. Moreover, many of the issues that he had tackled in his book continue to be relevant.

“The book is not merely about Indulekha and Madhavan and their romance. Chandu Menon, in fact, wanted to bring about a change in society. He was critical of caste divisions, feudalism, oppression of women and lack of proper education. It was interesting that he tried to say it all through a love story, a period when there were practices such as ‘sambandham’ in the matrilineal system.

“He had the guts to portray progressive characters who chose to live life on their own terms. The language was simple and laced with humour and thus he could easily connect with the readers. Each time I read the novel, I discovered new aspects. I could empathise with the emotions because I myself choose my partner!” she smiles.

She zeroed in on the idea of making a dance production much later. After having her second child, she took a break during which she read the novel again.

“That’s when I understood that it had so many other layers to it. I even wished I could meet Chandu Menon. I wondered whether he would appear in front of me and tell me why he created the characters,” she says.

That was around the time she happened to discuss her plans about a new production with Soorya Krishnamoorthy.

“He suggested that I should take up something socially relevant and that’s how we decided on Indulekha.”

Creative teamwork

Chaithanya Unni

Chaithanya Unni   | Photo Credit: Jithu Jithin

The one-hour long production has been directed by Krishnamoorthy, with choreography by Samudra group. Actor-dancer-filmmaker Vineeth Kumar is returning to the stage after a gap, in the role of Madhavan. “I am so happy about the way he has prepared for the character. Margi Balasubramanian will also essay a character,” she says.

Rajeev Alunkal has written the lyrics, with music by Pandit Ramesh Narayan.

The singers are P. Jayachandran, Kavalam Sreekumar, Madhu Balakrishnan and Madhushree Narayan. “We have a live set. And the stage is so set that we are very close to the audience,” she says.

‘Indulekha’ will have three shows, on January 21, 22 and 23 at Ganesham, Thycaud, at 7 pm.

Fact file

* Chaithanya, a child artiste in Malayalam cinema, has acted in Ee Thanalil Ithiri Neram, Adhyayam Onnu Muthal, Pathamudayam, T.P. Balagopalan MA, Unnikale Oru Katha Parayam and Sadayam among others. She won the State Film Award for the best child artiste for her role in Ormayilennum. She, along with her husband, runs a chain of medical and specialist centres in Australia.

* Under the auspices of O Chandu Menon Foundation, Chaithanya recently launched ‘Njaan Indulekha’ contest in colleges across Kerala. “It is not a beauty pageant. We test their knowledge about the book, the author and basic facts about Malayalam literature, besides having a personality test,” Chaithanya says.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 12:57:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/dance/chaithanya-unnis-theatre-musical-based-on-o-chandu-menons-indulekha/article22464030.ece

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