Reflections of society

A performance of Adayalam turned into a community event, with members of the locality pitching in to help stage the play

September 26, 2019 02:16 pm | Updated 02:16 pm IST - Kozhikode

A scene from Adayalam

A scene from Adayalam

“I believe theatre should inculcate a deep love for humanity,” says T Suresh Babu, a Kozhikode-based theatre-maker. He also believes that theatre should have its roots in villages. And that is why, 19 years ago, Suresh took it upon himself the mission of creating a theatre culture in his own village, Edakkad, on the suburbs of Kozhikode. Natakagramam, shaped by him, has now more than 15 plays in their repertory, many of which are still being performed.

Their latest production, Adayalam , (The Sign) that was staged recently is based on the real-life story of Bhanwari Devi, a Rajasthani social worker, who was raped after she tried to prevent a child marriage in her village. Adayalam presents a powerful portrayal of her painful saga. Bhanwari’s legal fight against the culprits paved the way for the Supreme Court’s guidelines on sexual harassment at the workplace.

Adayalam , written by Samkutty Pattomkari, is socially relevant as there are minute struggles for gender justice even to date. The play, directed by Suresh himself, has a huge cast of 27 actors. Almost all of the actors hail from Edakkad or neighbouring villages. Most of them were introduced to theatre through Natakagramam and were trained by Suresh.

A scene from Adayalam

A scene from Adayalam

The 100-minute play was created and staged with the collective effort of members of the locality, in a specially created performance space by the side of the NH Bypass at Mokavur. Suresh had experimented with the performance space, trying to break the proscenium space. Although the play began from the proscenium stage, soon it moved down to the ramps built through the audience area. The non-proscenium area was used brilliantly, and the audience members seated inside the ramps found the play taking place all around them. Multiple activities took place simultaneously in different spaces. Since the performance area as such was rectangular in nature, most of the audience were seated outside the ramps. The musicians of the live music team were also placed amongst the audience. The set and property were minimal in nature, without overburdening the performance spaces.

Priya Sreejith, who performed the role of Bhanwari Devi, did a fine job in portraying her transformation from a naïve village housewife to a strong woman determined to bring the culprits to justice. Authenticity was maintained in the costumes. But the music too could have had a Rajasthani flavour instead of Malayalam songs rendered live by the actors themselves.

The play progressed with a straight narrative. The tickets to the play were sold out for all three days of the show, a veritable success for a non-commercial play made and staged in a rural setting.

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