Thiruvananthapuram

A rebel who shook up the world of theatre

The cover page of a compilation of plays by C.J. Thomas, brought out by the Kerala Sahitya Akademi.

The cover page of a compilation of plays by C.J. Thomas, brought out by the Kerala Sahitya Akademi.

KOCHI: In his foreword to a collection of original plays and theatre translations by C.J. Thomas, published by the Kerala Sahitya Akademi, critic M. Thomas Mathew quotes from Aa Manushyan Nee Thanne : “There are several hills in Israel, but there’s only one Mount Hermon.”

Mr. Mathew then goes on to apply the analogy to Aa Manushyan Nee Thanne in relation to other plays in Malayalam.

But many would count 1128-il Crime 27 as the most perspicacious piece of theatre by CJ, a multifaceted personality like M. Govindan, whose birth centenary falls on Tuesday (November 14).

A searing look at the judiciary and the press in the context of a murder, which it turned out never happened, 1128-il Crime 27 , published in 1954, is characteristically Brechtian with play within a play and discusses the issues of impossible justice within the law and questions of grief around death.

“There is no social institution that does not come under CJ’s attack in the play, which exposes human selfishness and asserts that an honest person can only be a cynic,” writes Mr. Mathew.

Avan Veendum Varunnu , yet another consummate play from CJ, is built around the quotidian human struggle in maintaining a fine balance between ethical obligations and the quest for freedom.

In his short life of just over 41 years, CJ donned several contrasting roles — that of a priest in the Syrian Jacobite Church, an ambivalent Christian, a rebel, an ardent supporter of communism and finally, its most fervent critic. Vishavriksham , a play he had written for the cause of the liberation struggle, earned him brickbats.

Mr. Mathew argues that CJ would have regretted writing it had he lived for some more time.

Author and critic P.K. Balakrishnan had observed that CJ had a strong faith in his belief of the time.

It was intellectual honesty that took him to various faiths, but he remained true to each one of them.

A fan of Sophocles, he had translated some fantastic classic theatre to Malayalam.

In a note, scenarist John Paul described him as a questioner who was on a mission to seek answers to life’s quintessential uncertainties.

“If he hadn’t died prematurely, he would have moved away from the Congress…. But he wasn’t an opportunist. He wouldn’t mind forgoing beliefs when confronted with doubt. While he was portrayed as anti-Christ and anti-Marxist, he never denounced Christ or Marx,” writes Mr. John Paul.

The MK Sanoo Foundation and CJ Smaraka Samiti are jointly organising a year-long programme dotted with discussions and presentations to remember the rebel, whose life was realistically etched by his spouse Rosy Thomas.

Critic Sanoo master will open the programmes at the Town Hall at Koothattukulam on Tuesday in which theatre students from Sree Sankara University of Sanskrit in Kalady will stage dialogues from CJ’s memorable plays.


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Printable version | Sep 22, 2022 6:59:51 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/a-rebel-who-shook-up-the-world-of-theatre/article20404255.ece