Theatre

Of choices and decisions

Almost all of us are inured to the ordeal of having to put up with visiting relatives from the U.S., who constantly criticise India. I have often wondered if, through their carping criticism of India, they seek validation for their decision to migrate. But as Jayaram, one of the characters in Dummies Drama’s ‘Payanam’ (written and directed by V. Sreevathson) points out, looking for the U.S. in India is as absurd as looking for India in the U.S. The play was staged as part of Kartik Fine Arts’ Kodai Nataka Vizha at Narada Gana Sabha.

Each character in ‘Payanam’ is in the U.S. for a different reason. Nakhul (Prasanna), who puts on an accent hoping to impress his relatives in India, is there for the freedom he enjoys; Gautam is a tech wizard, who likes the work environment there.

But there is a price to pay for everything. Pushpak (Sriram), for instance, loses his father, and has no money to make the trip home. The playwright clearly shows us that not everyone who goes to the U.S. makes money hand over fist.

The main idea behind the play is summed up in one line by Jayaram: “No pain, no gain.” Life is all about choices. In the journey of life, we cannot escape problems. All we can do is trade one set of problems for another, and we can never be certain we have taken the right decision, and this was brought out by Sreevathson.

However, at times, the play was more like a debate than a drama. There were also some points that were not convincing. How could Gautam not anticipate that a woman on a dependent visa would feel bored in the U.S.? Also that a company like Apple will take a decision to open an office in India without much deliberation was a bit over the top. The sets (Krishnamoorthy and Padma Stage Kannan) were appropriate. Sridhar as Jayaram, the reluctant visitor to the U.S., Prasanna and Preethi Hari as Gautam’s wife, Aparna, sparkled.

‘WhatsApp Vasu’

Vasu’s life revolves round WhatsApp, office work and his girl friend Janaki. But it isn’t tension free. His mother wants him to marry a girl of her choice, and at work, deadlines are missed and an irate boss sets impossible targets for him.

Vasu seeks a way out, and a mix of modern technology and traditional lore comes to his aid. He clicks a link on WhatsApp. The link grants one whatever one wishes for, and Vasu prays for old age! His prayer is inspired by Avvaiyar, whose transformation from youth to old age was instant, according to legend.

But Vasu’s problems now get worse. He is ‘older’ than his parents; he can never hope to marry Janaki, and he can’t even go to work. His father Sivaraman (Kathadi Ramamurthi) suggests that he make the most of the situation, by living like someone in the 1970s, without a television or a cell phone. Vasu discovers the peace of an unhurried life; all the problems are sorted out eventually.

Obviously, there are opportunities to use Vasu’s sudden old age to elicit laughs. The message of the play is that too much of technology is not good for one. Likewise, one would like to point out to S.L. Naanu, who has written and directed the play, that too many of the same kind of jokes are not desirable in a play. When will writers stop repeating jokes about coffee? The way Kadayam Kalyanaraman kept repeating the same things, supposedly because of his confused state of mind, made for tedious viewing.

The hall was packed for the play and it was clear that the audience had come to see Kathadi on stage, and the Kathadi touch was undoubtedly there. But to expect Kathadi’s gusto to carry the day won’t work always, and it didn’t in the case of ‘WhatsApp Vasu.’

(The writer of ‘Life-long affair with theatre,’ Friday Review, May 8, is Suganthy Krishnamachari, whose name was omitted inadvertently.)


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Printable version | Jul 28, 2021 6:41:39 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/of-choices-and-decisions/article7205549.ece

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