This years Soorya Theatre Festival is scheduled from October 11th to 20th with the performance of 11 plays by 9 directors. The festival takes place at SST College of Music Thiruvanathapuram at 6.45 pm. One of the highlights of this year’s festival is the three plays directed by Soorya Krishnamoorthy. Paattabakki written by K.Damodaran and directed by me for Lokadharmi is included in this festival.
The festival showcases plays of directors like Kavalam Narayana Panikkar, Raju Narippatta, Jayaprakash Kuloor, M.Vinod, Manjulan, Vinodkumar, and Pramod Payyannur.
There is an emphasis on realistic productions and direct communication in this year’s festival.
Melvilasam (Address) – Soorya Krishnamoorthy- Soorya, Thiruvananthapuram (11th October)
Adapted from a Hindi Short Story "Court Martial' by Swadesh Deepak and inspired from the experiences of Gopi Poojapura, an ex-soldier of Indian Army, the play highlights the caste differences in the Society. The trauma experienced by a jawan from a backward community, who is ill treated by his superiors is brought out through an emotional presentation and effective dialogues. The play goes into the reasons that compelled the soldier to commit the murder of his officer and seeks to depict the relentless fight between the privileged and the downtrodden. The play is noticed for its simplicity of narration which depends on the histrionics of the actors who lived as characters devoid of any technical extravaganza. This can be called as one naturalistic production ever happened in Malayalam theatre.
Prema Lekhanam (Love Letter) – Soorya Krishnamoorthy- Soorya, Thiruvananthapuram (12th October)
‘Premalekhanam’ is an adaptation of the famous story by Vaikom Mohammed Basheer, that revolves around the romance of Kesavan Nair, a bank employee from a conservative Nair family, and Saramma, a member of an orthodox Christian family.
The significant feature of the play was its simplicity. Simplicity was the dominant aspect of the theme, the dialogues, the acting, the costumes, the properties, the lighting and the total design.
Although Basheer wrote ‘Premalekhanam’ 65 years ago, the play reminds us that the ‘progress’ in our society is still superficial and that we have a long way to go before we can claim to be secular.
Pulari (Dawn) – Soorya Krishnamoorthy- Soorya, Thiruvananthapuram (13th October)
The story is set in pre-independence India. It happens in a village in North Kerala called Chamundipuram. The characters in the story strongly believe that their dreams will materialize one day.
A station master who dreams of a day when an express train would stop at his railway station, a tea-shop owner who dreams of a credit-free day, a post master whose wish is a letter addressed to him, a young lady who hopes that her already married lover would come back to her, a tailor who is desperate to stitch a silk cloth, an old man who waits for the remains of his dead son, and a young girl - Ammu - who waits for her father to return, although she knows that he is dead!
The life and times of people who lived 60 years ago were effectively illustrated on stage. A tea shack, a tailoring shop and a post office filled the stage.... the attention to detail enhanced the feel of the play and the period and the place in which it is set.
Madhyama Vyayogam – Kavalam Narayana Panikkar - Sopanam, Thiruvananthapuram (14th October)
'Madhyama Vyayogam' marks Sopanam's maiden encounter with Sanskrit Theatre in 1978. A major breakthrough in Kavalam's career as a director came when he was offered a chance to produce and present a Sanskrit drama at the prestigious Kalidas Samaroh in Ujjain. And on November 2, 1978, 'Madhyama Vyayogam' was presented in Ujjain and was received with a standing ovation. The audience could feel the strength of the Sanskrit presentation, the usage of body dynamics by the actors and their ability to combine the "Satvika" and "Vachika" acting.
Mahakavi Bhasa's 'Madhyama Vyayogam' is based on an incident in the Mahabharatha. The Central point of the dramatic development of the play is Madhyama (the middle one) applied to both, Bhima, the Madhyama Pandava, and the Madhyama, the second of the three sons of a Brahmin. A theme which brings home to us the warmth of family relationship, the stimulation of human sentiments - the old values being recaptured in a highly dramatic situation.
Bastukara- - Raju Narippatta- Nava Kerala Kalasamithi Karalmanna (15th October)
Bastukara is the new play by Narippatta Raju, and is dedicated to the memory of Baburaj and is an adaptation of the short story by Shihabuddin Poithumkadavu. ‘Basthukara’ is the rags-to-riches story of Avukkar Haji whose obsession for music coupled with a sense of munificence finally impoverishes him and his flourishing business.
The narration of the play includes symbols, flash-back, alienation, fantasy et al. Captivating strains of Baburaj’s songs, for which Haji has a fascination, enhances the appeal of the show.
Ithu Oru Kurangante Kadhayalla (This is not the Story of a Monkey) & Manakkanakku – Jayaprakash Kuloor - (16th October)
This years Soorya Festival has Two plays by Jayaprakash Kuloor whose presence was regular from the first Soorya festival. The difference this time is that instead of mini plays that were sort of curtain raisers in the earlier festivals Kuloor comes with two plays Ithu Oru Kurangante Kadhayalla and Manakkanakku, both penned and directed by him. One can expect the path of improvisation and a approach that is breaking the barriers of conventionalism, the trade mark of Kuloor theatre.
Kanyadanam – M Vinod– Thrissur Natakasauhradam (17th October)
The play ‘Kanyadanam’ is written by Thikkodiyan and is based on the Christian life of Malabar proclaims the value of perseverance. This play is directed by M Vinod for Thrissur Nataka Sauhridam, an important theatre group that has completed 10 years of continuous functioning.
Paattabaakki (Balance Lease) – Chandradasan – Lokadharmi, Kochi (18th October)
The Malayalam play, `Paattabakki,' was written by the late K. Damodaran, well-known Communist theoretician. Considered the first political drama of Kerala, it was said to be written in one single night, to be performed at a conference of the Karshaka Sangham, the farmers' guild of the Communist Party of India in Malabar.
The story revolves around the obnoxious custom of `Paattabakki,' the weapon wielded by land-owners to extort farmers who took land and paddy fields on lease.
But, the play continues to be relevant as long as an oppressive social system continues to exist.
Though didactic in nature, `Paattabakki' never raises any slogans; the message is subtle and the play ends only with a hint towards the solution, without stating it explicitly.
Koonan ( Hunchback) – Jayaprakash Kuloor/Manjulan-Perumthattakam Kannur & Kannadi (Mirror) – Vinodkumar –Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit, Kalady - (19th October)
On 19th October two plays penned by Jayaprakash Kuloor are scheduled.
The first one is a solo show `Koonan' (The Hunchback) and performed by Manjulan and is about a hunchback's unrequited love. The play starts with him fondling a bunch of flowers, which he had got for his love. Just before he dies, he gives away the bunch of flowers to a little girl, knowing for sure that this gesture would not change his ‘lover’s’ feelings for him.
The second play of the day is Kannadi (Mirror) directed by Vinodkumar and performed by the department of theatre Sree Sankaracharya University of Sankrit Kalady, again penned by Jayaprakash Kuloor. The play tells the story of a young couple that had not seen a mirror in their life. Kannadi is portrayed as something that could not only help people realize themselves but also destroy their lives
Mathilukal (Walls) – Pramod Payyannur – Swaralaya Palakkad (20th October)
The Thruvanthapuram edition of Soorya Festival conclude with the play “Mathilukal”, based on short story by Vaikkam Muhammed Basheer directed by Pramod Payyannur and acted among others by K.P.A.C. Lalitha , M.R.Gopakumar, Ibrahim Vengara, Unni Sathar etc.
Pattabakki (The lease balance)
As early as in 1936 when the political arena in Kerala was becoming more and more tense with the peasant landlord antagonism and anti-British movement, the ideological intellectualism of the middle class was struggling to find strategies of containment in various fields of creative activity. The age-old concept of a coercive aesthetics of "divine bliss" and the appropriation of the cultural life and elemental human experience of the majority came to have little significance in the newly evolved performance praxis which clearly was being determined by the social contradictions of the times. Here, art and performance became a highly conscious and rational social activity for the new playwrights who were basically social reformers first and foremost. The shaping spirit of this newly emerged theatre practice with an aggressive aesthetic and performance orientation gave birth to another genre totally new to Malayalam theatre which found its expression in K. Damodaran's Pattabakki (1936). Considered as the first political play in Malayalam, Pattabakki rooted itself in the anti-feudal consciousness of the people, which was getting manifested in the struggles of the peasants against feudal landlordism supported by the British regime. A new structure of human experience, determined, by the socio-political reality undertook the task of vehemently challenging the hegemonic ideology of the times. This new performance pattern which was basically realistic reached every nook and corner of Kerala to establish a lasting effect upon the future developments in the radical theatre practice of Kerala.
Thus, it can be surmised that with K.Damodaran's Pattabakki Malayalam theatre practice came of age in 1937 and the subsequent developments in Kerala theatre very clearly indicates the class-contradictions embedded at the core of the fast changing social formations
Structure wise also the play is interesting. At one level it has a documentary nature that episodically builds up. The different scenes are charged with emotions but the story develops between each scenes. The play has 14 scenes that take place in verandah of a small and decaying hut, a small teashop in the town, the house of the landlord, a street, a small shop, and police station, the office room of the barn of the landlord, under a tree in a street, a prostitution house, and a jail. The locales of scenes suggest the locales where political and social power is operated. The play is written in the realistic style but it is not the naturalism but a suggestive realism is suited for this work. The earlier productions of this play has been on the realistic melodramatic overtones and was over projecting the emotional content of the radical political stands of the play making it a simplistic sloganistic piece. It is noteworthy that the play did not give a direct answer to the problems it raises but ends in open. When asked what to be done o face such grave exploitation the central character just say that ‘I will tell you”
A Brechtian approach in a didactic and open structure will make the play a new experience. The episodical narrative is addressing the audience directly and mostly talks to them enhancing the dialectical nature of this play. The play is presented in an open space where each of the scenes are arranged in different spaces with suggestive realistic set pieces and props and the audience is made to shift attention from space to space.
The period of this production is set during the 1960s even if the issues raised in this play transcend spaces and time. It is valid as long as the social structure is existing that oppresses the working class people.
Thematically the play speaks about agriculture, the farmer the land owner and the relationships between them and the exploitation. At present even agriculture as a social activity is almost extinct from Kerala life and it will be interesting to enquire the passion with which our farmers worked on the field even under sheer exploitation. It is the sheer social situation that makes the protagonist to thieve and the female lead to opt for prostitution. Theft and prostitution are approached by the playwright not as sin but as the result of social pressure in the oppressed. The presentation of the play in this era will be interesting in this approach to prostitution and thieves and the fake morality that prevails today.
The cast of the play is Sukanya Shaji, Vijayakumar, Govind Nambiar, TS Asha Devi, Ajaikumar Thiruvankulam, N.Somasundaran, Sudheer Babu, Shirly Somasundaran, Madan Kolavil, Johny Thottunkal, Kalamandalam Prabhakaran, VR Selvaraj, Santhosh Piravam, Damodaran Nambothiri, Prasanth madhav, Kannatte Kalesh Sanosh Palluruthi, Amar Mohan, & Meghanadhan
The technical crew comprises of Jolly Antony (Set), Bijibal (Music); Shirly Somasundaran, (Costume Design): Anoop Kalarikkal, (Art &Properties), Gireesh Menon (Lighting) and Madan Kolavil (Production in Charge).
Pattabakki will be performed on the 11th October at JT Pac Thripunithura and on 18th at SST College of Music at Thiruvananthapuram, the 6th and 7th performances of this play.
We dedicate these shows to the memory of Late Kalamandalam Kesavan who was acting the role of the landlord in the previous shows of Paattabakki.
Edition of Soorya Festival at JT Pac Thripunithura
This year the Soorya Theatre Festival has an aedition at JT Pac Thripunithura, Ernakulam (Choice School Compound) also. All the plays performed at Thiruvanathapuram are performed here also. The Schedule is given below.
11th October Paattabakki (Balance Lease) – Chandradasan – Lokadharmi, Kochi
12th October Ithu Oru Kurangante Kadhayalla & Manakkanakku – Jayaprakash Kuloor
13th October Madhyama Vyayogam – Kavalam Narayana Panikkar - Sopanam, Thiruvananthapuram
14th October Bastukara- - Raju Narippatta- Nava Kerala Kalasamithi Karalmanna
15th October Pulari – Soorya Krishnamoorthy- Soorya, Thiruvananthapuram
16th October Prema Lekhanam – Soorya Krishnamoorthy- Soorya, Thiruvananthapuram
17th October Melvilasam – Soorya Krishnamoorthy- Soorya, Thiruvananthapuram
18th October Kanyadanam – M Vinod– Thrissur Natakasauhradam
19th October Mathilukal (Walls) – Pramod Payyannur – Swaralaya Palakkad
20th October 1.Koonan – Jayaprakash Kuloor/Manjulan-Perumthattakam Kannur & 2.Kannadi – Vinodkumar –Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit, Kalady