Theatre

When the Mask becomes the Man

"Kattiyakkaran" by Koothuppattarai Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam  

When a marriage is dull, what does a man do? He fantasises. When there is a curtain of reserve between husband and wife, the man’s imagination runs riot, more so when he sees a picture of a pretty actor. All the intimacy he wants from his wife, but doesn’t get, he gets from the imaginary journeys his libido takes. Enter the peddlers of dreams - businessmen who capitalise on our shortcomings, our complexes and our fixations. When everything can be monetised, dreams can be too. So what do you do if your husband does not find you attractive?

“Wear a mask,” suggests a greedy businessman, for he is into the business of making masks. It doesn’t sound such a bad idea, because we are used to wearing figurative masks anyway, and in fact that’s what the play is all about. We wear masks all the time - a different face to present to different people. In fact, masks are us. And so used are we to masks, that we cannot tell a real face from a mask. The masks in fact, seem more real to us. We tilt at shadows. But we also fall in love with shadows.

When relationships are built on mistrust and hypocrisy, assumed identities swallow up the real person. The reality then becomes abhorrent to us. This is the basic idea in Koothu-p-Pattarai’s ‘Kattiyakkaran,’ written by N. Muthuswamy, designed and directed by Prasanna Ramaswamy.

The curtain becomes a major character in the play, veiling and unveiling characters and sequences. ‘Kattiyakkaran’ is about the dishonest lives we live; it’s about the truths we dare not speak. As for the masks, which are being cleverly marketed, these masks too, as in the case of many products pushed by corporates, seek to deprive people of their individuality, and to turn them into a homogenous mass of unquestioning consumers.

The discussions on sexual intimacies were rather embarrassing. It could, of course, be argued that reactions such as mine are typical of the way we’ve been conditioned to think, that we are products of a society that’s turned us into prigs. But surely manipulative advertisements and the exploitation of our insecurities by big business can be portrayed without recourse to expatiations on bedroom intimacies.

The Thevarattam choreography was excellent, and the trainer Nellai Manikandan must be complimented for making the movements so full of life. Niran Vikctor Benjhamin, with his sinuous body movements, was especially good. His leaps were symbolic of the leaps of imagination we are capable of.

The ‘Naan Paadi Nee Paadi’ sequence choreographed by Anjali Ariyanayagam, with its ballet like movements, was a treat, and Archana Sharma, who danced with Niran, was as pretty as a picture. Film melodies from the 1970s and 1980s stitched up the sequences, and Ramesh Bharati shows a lot of promise as a singer.


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Printable version | Aug 3, 2021 9:03:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/when-the-mask-becomes-the-man/article6422729.ece

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