Creating a magical charm

CAPTIVATING: A scene from the play Suravali. Photo: Special Arrangement  

When it comes to human emotions and issues plaguing the society, Shakespeare can never be dispensed with. Though his last play, The Tempest, is branded as a romantic comedy, its political comment and concern for environment have made the play relevant for all times. Probably, that is why it attracted legendary writer Indira Parthasarathy to adapt the play in Tamil in a creative way and drew the attention of Magic Lantern to stage it.

The theatre performance was organised in Kadambavanam, a Tamil ethnic resort near Madurai, on the occasion of 18th Memorial Day of Prof Shenbagam Ramasamy and 38th anniversary of Nija Nadaka Iyakkam. Indira Parthasarathy released the book Nadagam-Thirai Innume Pesalam, authored by M. Ramasamy. R. Panneerselvam of Mahatma group of schools, received the first copy.

The play begins with the hailstorm wrecking the ship of Vellaiambalam (Alonso), Chinna ambalam (Sebastian), Elavarasan (Ferdinand) and Chinnamuthuvel (Antonio). It is nothing but an illusion created by Muthuvel (Prospero), who was thrown out of power by his brother Chinnamuthuvel with the help of Vellaiambalam. In exile in an island, Muthuvel learns magic and with his prowess conjures up a storm to lure his usurping brother and the complicit King to the island.

The play is all about power games in politics. Muthuvel, who rues the action of his brother, too commits the same offence by capturing the island and power from the original inhabitant of the island, Karuppan (Caliban), and in fact, enslaves him. It is an intellectually loaded play with multiple layers of meaning.

After the shipwreck Vellaiambalam and his friends wander in forest as paupers. Meanwhile Karuppan in association with Tulukkanam (Stephano), the drunken butler and Komali (Trinculo), the jester attempts to oust Muthuvel. At the end Muthuvel realises his folly and returns the power to Karuppan and forgives his brother Chinna Muthuvel and Vellaiambalam and gets his daughter Muthukanni (Miranda) married to Elavarasan.

“I have not translated the play but I have trans-created to suit the Tamil cultural ambience. It is now a Tamil play with Tamil characters befitting the cultural and political climate in the context of Indian psyche as I thought the play can communicate with even a non-English knowing person, who may not be aware of Shakespeare. All the characters are given Tamil names and they speak Tamil with all its dialectical variations, according to their social status. My play has a pronounced political overtone, which also makes it contemporary,” says Indira Parthasarathy, who already has adapted another Shakespeare’s play King Lear in Tamil.

Karuppan stands for anti-colonialism when he tells the audience how Muthuvel has colonised his kingdom, taken away his wealth and make him do errand work.

The performance captured the original fancy and daring imagination as depicted by the playwright. The story never lapsed into dullness or obscurity (especially when the drunken butler and jester occupy centrestage). The supernatural machinery was never used for producing startling or monstrous effects. Rather, it dexterously maintained the dream-spirit throughout. Most of the play happens in the forest, a place where one need not stick to unity of time, space and action. But, this play strangely adheres to the unity of time as the whole drama happens in two hours time.

The play addresses the environment issues when Karuppan rues how the natural wealth is being looted. The Bonbibi fable, the play within the play segment, too tells men to respect nature and its biodiversity.

Donning Muthuvel’s role, Mu. Ramasamy was in his elements as he roared like a lion on stage while Sri Krishan Dayal (Karuppan) did no harm to the character mouthing his agony. Kumaravel (Tulukkanam) and Hans Kaushik (Komali) provided the much needed comic relief.

Director Pravin deserves appreciation for the innovative presentation. Set design and Music deserve special mention. With creepers and trees, the perfect forest setting created an ethereal ambience. Maarten Visser’s unique audiography broke the eerie silence of the forest. Balasaravanan created a perfect storm sequence with his lighting arrangements.

“Indira Parthasarathy wanted us to do the play nine years ago. But the project could not take off. After the success of Ponniyin Selvan, he renewed our interests. The play is very topical and that motivated us to stage it,” says Pravin

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2021 9:19:23 PM |

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