Theatre

The music saint on stage

A scene from the play, Sri Thyagarajar. Photo: Photo: S. R. Raghunatan  

When most theatre groups keep their plays limited to 90 minutes to sustain the audience’s interest, a new play staged recently at Narada Gana Sabha, went on for two hours and yet kept one engrossed.

‘Sri Thyagarajar’, an emotionally-charged musical, is scripted and directed by T.V. Varadharajen (TVV). Veteran writer VSV assisted by C.V. Chandramohan has penned the dialogue and music is by Bombay Jayashri. Apt casting also contributes to the play’s success. TVV lives the role of the Saint, conveying Thyagaraja’s bhakti for Rama through his restrained portrayal. His lip syncing of the pre-recorded kritis is perfect as also his depiction of an aging Thyagaraja that comes through impeccably in his speech.

Rajasri Bhat as his wife, Kamalamma, and Nathiya as his daughter, Seethamma, play their role well. Sridhar as his disciple Raghavan is an apt choice. Lakshmi as Chenchulakshmi, the greedy and cantankerous wife of Thyagaraja’s elder brother, does full justice. Swayamprakash as Jalpesan, her husband, also excels. On the whole, it is a moving performance.

One of the highlights of the script is a scene where Rama, Sita, Lakshmanan and Hanuman in a disguise come to stay with Thyagaraja. This leads to a lot of emotional situations, the touching moment being the performance of Dolotsavam by Thyagaraja to the idol of Rama. Sankar Kumar as Rama expresses well through his eloquent eyes.

The director scores again when Thyagaraja sings ‘Nidhi Chala Sukhama’ with the other actors showing varied expressions. Astute word-play such as ‘arasan-aachaaryan’, ‘sadam-prasadam’ and ‘bikshai-pitchai’ marks the dialogue of veteran VSV.

Bombay Jayashri has aptly chosen the Saint’s kritis befitting the situations on the stage. She and other singers such as Sherthalai Ranganatha Sharma, O.S. Arun and Kunnakudi Balamuralikrishna must be given due credit for their soul-stirring renditions.

The overall background score and use of the chorus in particular, when Thyagaraja leaves home in search of the missing idols, tugged at the heartstrings. The mixing and balancing of the music by Biju James is striking. Poet Piraisoodan’s ‘Jagam Pughazum’, sung by young singers, aptly sums up the life of Thyagaraja. Sankara Sekaran (make up), Kaliyamurthy (lights) and Padma Stage Kannan (sets) contribute immensely to enhance the play’s impact.

The play begins with Rama Nama followed by ‘Jagadanandakaraka’ and ends with ‘Endaro Mahanubhavulu’; appropriate selections indeed. A brief introduction of the Saint is given by Shobhana Ravi in Tamizh and P. C. Ramakrishna in English. The title cards in the hands of cartoonist Keshav gives a new perspective to Thyagaraja.

‘Sri Thyagarajar’ is not just an aural and visual treat, but touches the heart too.

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2021 11:58:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/The-music-saint-on-stage/article14012122.ece

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