Saturday, July 5, 2008

In the Moonlight of Love – Soorya Krishnamurthy adapts Premalekhanam (Love letter) by Basheer




Love is a sweet and dreamy experience, quite unique and pure… it transcends human beings into a realm of lighter existence, into the bliss of being among hardships.
When Vaikom Muhammad Basheer writes about love it becomes all the more sweeter and transparent – as sweet as a ‘candy from the skies’. The human experience revolves around the whole scaffold of dreamy nuances of human bondage and at the same time is rooted to the ground reality, the conflicts of being in the ruthless and loveless society with all contradictions. Love becomes a cold stream of moonlight into which his characters can take a dip to forget the hardships and struggles ordeals and survive. He is the Sultan of narration, and the real legendary writer who has created his own language and constructions, an alternate narrative language itself whenever the words fail to express the nuances of relationships and experiences.

Premalekhanam (love letter) written in 1943 is adapted into a play by Soorya Krishnamurthy, into a simple and telling narrative form that makes us soaked into the moonlight of love. Recently many of the stories by Basheer have been adapted to stage by many theatre persons and all were appealing in theatre. There is some magic in the writing of basher that makes the adaptation into a success. This may be because the works of the Sultan of Stories are truthful, clear and unique exposé of human situation. It is neither the craft nor the technique of writing that makes it unique, but the truthful earthy human experience, the link with contemporary concern, and the clarity of vision and expression. Thus it is immaterial whether is expressed as fiction, drama or film in which the expression takes place.

This production also was a soothing experience and at the same make as reflects about the society in which we live in and our own limitations. It makes as dream about the moonlight of pure love that transcends all walls and bondages, the bondages of caste and religion in one level and bondages and limitations of our own existence and self to merge into the transparency of unconditional love.

The director and his crew have taken a simple and transparent design for the play quite true to Basheer and his writing. It was performed in an arena where the audience was sitting on all four sides of the square in which two characters Kesavan Nair and Saramma (enacted skillfully by the couple Amalraj and Lakshmi) were trying to play their mutual love. Kesavan Nair a bank employee (the play is hosted by the Bank Employees Arts Movement in Kochi) and his infinite love to the unemployed Saramma, the daughter of his tenant and her negation of his letters of love and expressions is used not just to engage the audience and marvel them, but also to reflect the conflicts of the present day. The whole interaction seems a gibe or a game of love in which direct expression is negated by the ploy of Saramma, who always postpones saying “tell you tomorrow”. And hence we have to wait till the last minutes of the play where the two lovers really express their love and unite.

The play depended not on any techniques or technology, other than the skill of acting from the cast. The design and approach of the director is quite refreshing in an atmosphere of overt technical gimmicks and overindulgence in gadgets used in contemporary theatre. Krishnamurthy in his previous production Melvilasam (Address) also has avoided any technological usages and depended on his actors and the human emotions of the dramatic situation to create his theatre. It is to be remembered that technique is not alien to him and he was doing a lot of ‘light and sound shows’ of massive formats quite efficiently. But when it came to theatre he left the craft beside, and is working on the basics of human experience and theatre itself.

The set was simple, with minimum essential properties, and minimal use of music and sound. The play started with Basheer’s favorite song ‘Soja Rajakumari…’ that set the atmosphere for the play to take place. The other sound used was the sound of a train to mark the different scenes which finally suggested the train in which the two characters leave for a voyage seeking a new life to a distant place. The light was to make the action visible and to mark the scene changes, and the use of a blue light to represent the night and also the moonlight of love that always is there in the hearts of the lovers became proficient. The blue light was there when the Saramma finally opened her heart to Kesavan Nair and the pair has really expressed their mutual love.

And the thrust of the narration that the director emphasized was on the religious diversity of the two lovers. The possibility of a life together between Saramma who is a Christian and Kesavan Nair who is a Hindu and how the couple is going to name their child was the chore of the play. This story that was written in the 1940’s and the resolution that they will grow the child without any religion, and name him as ‘Aakasa-Mittai’ (the candy from the skies) felt more relevant today, where the atmosphere outside is echoing the nonsense of screams, protests and bloodshed about a lesson in the curriculum of the primary school. While watching this production I was taken into the mystic and cooling experience of the moonlight of love; and at the same time was also made to ponder about the viciousness of our society that is retreating in its deliberations, deteriorating sense of humanism, conservative orthodoxy enslaving the progressive liberalism more ferocious and fierce than in the darker ages of history.

2 comments:

Chandradasan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shobha Menon said...

I read your blog on Soorya Krishnamoorthy's Premalekhanam. I felt like watching the play while reading it; well written blog.
Congratulations to Soorya Krishna Moorthy for this tough task on visualizing Basheer's play to theatre world.

Best,
Shobha Menon, Philadelphia