Theatre

Turning the clock back

A scene from Thanikudithanam. Photo: R. Shivaji Rao  

Newly married Nana wants to leave the parental home. And he tries his best to cause a rift between his mother and wife and his sister and wife, hoping that the quarrels will make his exit easy. Sounds anachronistic? But then this story was set four decades ago.

However, the recent staging of Marina's play ‘Thanikkudithanam,' which was a roaring success in the 70s, remains faithful to the original. No cell phones, no laptops, no modern intrusions, which would have robbed it of its period charm. And therefore it does not seem anachronistic. Even the song that the heroine sings is the seventies song ‘Thirupaarkkadalil Palli Kondaaye!' In this context, the song from ‘Michael Madana Kamarajan,' and the reference to Madhuri Dixit stuck out like sore thumbs.

The tartness of Kamu (Malathi Sampath), the hypochondriac sister of the hero, was endearing rather than annoying. Malathi's performance was excellent. Raghav as Nana, frustrated at every turn by his placid wife, who cannot even be tutored to quarrel, did a neat job. The late Gemini Mahalingam had played the romantic husband with Shoba as the innocent wife. Ravindran as Koda Naidu tended to be a bit self-conscious at times.

Handled with ease

There were some embarrassing moments when lines were forgotten. But the play coasted along to an ‘all's well that ends well' ending. The conversational ease, the clean humour, the look of unconcern on the face of the head of the household, which seemed to suggest that he had earned it after years of toil, the hen-pecked Athimber (Karur Rangarajan), a character that Poornam Viswanathan brought alive so beautifully, the black coat and colourful umbrella of Koda Naidu (Manakkal Mani's voice still rings in one's ears), the hero cleaning his bicycle with the care a modern youngster would bestow on nothing less than a BMW - all of these transported one back to the Seventies.

Athimber's affection for his bossy wife and refusal to allow others to treat her shoddily, were touching. But Athimber's new found courage does not last. He goes back to being everybody's whipping boy. No dramatic personality transformation for Athimber, and this makes it all seem natural.

‘Thanikkudithanam' shows a kaleidoscope of images in an ordinary, middle class family, bringing back memories of an innocent era, when family bonds were strong. No heavy doses of Freudian psychology, no disturbing dystopian vision here.

The hero is a man from a humble background, with a simple problem, which is finally resolved quite simply. ‘Thanikkudithanam' is a charming play about a charming, laid back time. It leaves one wistful and nostalgic.

Post script: Incidentally, Thanikkudithnam was made into a film in the Seventies, starring K.R. Vijaya, Cho and Y.G. Mahendra. It even had a P. Suseela song, which Vijaya sings in the film. The film, however, was a pathetic affair, a far cry from the sparkling original.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2021 11:16:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/Turning-the-clock-back/article14691464.ece

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