Theatre

Sleuth that didn’t mean to be

'Thuppariyum Saambu,'. Photo: S. R. Raghunathan  

In Devan’s humorous stories, there are plots within plots, as in ‘Kalyani,’ where everyone makes plans to steal the jewels, at almost the same time, leaving the reader wondering how the hopelessly tangled comic threads are going to be unravelled. Devan, master craftsman that he was, always did it fashioning a perfect climax. There are dramatic elements in these stories that would make an adaptation to stage if not a breeze, at least relatively easy. But ‘Thuppariyum Sambu’ (directed by T.D. Sundarrajan), is a different kettle of fish altogether. The episodic stories depend entirely on clever turns of phrase to show us the transformation Sambu’s image takes, without the character actually going through any change himself. The ‘bumbling idiot’ turns ace detective, whom even the Scotland Yard covets, thanks to circumstances. Devan’s creativity shines in the creation of these circumstances. He had to be absolutely innovative to convert trite situations into moments of brilliance and he does it episode after episode as Dame Luck keeps smiling on Sambu, who does not look back after the initial success. Once Sambu is perceived to be a genius masquerading as a fool, even his most inane utterances assume significance. It is one thing to convey the scenario through description, which the supreme wordsmith Devan did with panache. But passing this on to the stage is another. Right from the lingo to costume and décor to delivery, the period ambience becomes crucial to communicate the flavour to the audience, which would be a mixed lot, some familiar and some not quite so with Devan or Sambu.

Given these challenges, one must give Stage Creations (supported by Shraddha) credit for attempting a revival of ‘Thuppariyum Sambu’ and coming up with a convincing production. For Sambu to succeed on stage, it is not enough for the main character to do his role well, which veteran Kathadi Ramamurthi did effortlessly. But those around him have to be seen as the ones who ‘make’ him succeed, and the team on stage came together to pull it off, especially Inspector Gopalan (Girish), his wife Lakshmi (Kavitha Sivakumar) and Vembu (Lavanya Venugopal). Lakshmi exuded charm, with her gentle mocking of the police department and her teasing of the younger Vembu. With Girish playing the inspector, who is in awe of Sambu’s investigating ‘acumen,’ they made a fine pair.

In Devan’s stories, Vembu subtly controls Sambu, often giving him the impression that he is the decision maker, when all decisions, in fact flow from her. Lavanya Venugopal was the perfect choice for the role, bringing alive the character. Her subdued cheek was a perfect foil for Lakshmi’s sparkling wit, bordering on irreverence.

Sambu is introduced to us by Devan as a forty year old. But one wondered if Kathadi’s shuffling gait made him look older. Of course this was forgotten as the drama unfolded and he slipped into the character. Venkuttu, Vembu’s brother, wielding the broken brick ready to fling it at anyone who crosses his path, captured the author’s caricature very well, but again the actor could have been a younger person. One cannot fault Pammal Pacha’s acting here. He carried it off with his body language and timing (it was cute watching him do Ayudhapuja to his favourite missile).

With sets (‘Saidhai’ Kumar) and lighting (Babu) providing the right backdrop and directed by , Stage Creations succeeded in taking the audience, houseful that evening, on a nostalgic trip to the 1940s.

Their endorsement was evident with quite a few muttering the lines along with the characters and laughing even before the action started. And warm handshakes and broad smiles awaited the cast that lined up outside the green room after the show!


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Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 2:56:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/Sleuth-that-didn%E2%80%99t-mean-to-be/article14410282.ece

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