‘Abhayarthikal’ written by G. Sankara Pillai, which was staged in Kochi, has many parallels with Ibsen’s ‘Doll House.’
Modern interpretation: ‘Abhayarthikal.’
Who is a refugee? The play ‘Abhayarthikal,’ written by G. Sankara Pillai in 1965, and directed by Chandradasan, attempted to answer this question. The play was staged recently at the Changampuzha Park, Edappally.
The language used in the play was old, at times archaic, Malayalam but the diction was contemporary. It seems that the director of the play stuck to the original text and the dialogue, but attempted to interpret the play in a modern context.
Disintegration of society
“The play has parallels to Ibsen’s ‘Doll’s House’ and its philosophy. It is about the disintegration of social structure and failure of the concept of family,” says Chandradasan. The play is set at night in a railway station, when three different persons await the train. It has Janaki breaking free of the family bondage. She takes the initiative to get her husband and his lover married and then leaves the family behind. She finds an old man who is waiting for his son to return. The endless waiting for his son, who died as a soldier, has taken the man beyond the world of reality. So is the youth who is searching for his love – the daughter of a porter at the railway station. The youth refuses to acknowledge that she has been married off to someone else. Janaki is shown empathising with these two. But Janaki’s problem is her clash with the real world and the struggle to leave it behind. Like Ibsen’s Nora, Janaki too refused to listen to her husband’s pleas to return. The similarities between the two characters were loud enough, making the sound of a door closing at the end of the play, an obvious reference to Ibsen’s play, redundant.
“The original text had a suggestion that Janaki jumped in front of the train, ending her life. But we used the sound of the door to signify that she is moving on with life,” says Chandradasan.
A significant presence in the play is a group of refugees. The director used the proscenium at the venue as the stage for the refugees, while the main performing area was shifted to among the audience. But with the gypsy group remaining alienated, with their gibberish and having no particular connection in the progress of the narration, it did not have much relevance as such. The play attempts to convey the message that even within a family, those who have lost the link with realities end up as refugees – though not physically.
Madhuben performed well as Janaki, supported ably by Harikrishnan S. as the porter and Sajeer Khan as the mentally-challenged youth. Chandradasan also attempted special lighting to highlight the play of light and shade. “Only spot lights were used to accentuate the expressions of the actors,” says Chandradasan. Prof. Sankara Pillai pioneered experimental theatre in Malayalam. The play was staged in association with Changampuzha Samskarika Kendram and Vyapari Vyavasai Ekopana Samithi, Devankulangara, Edappally, with financial support from Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi.
Note. Courtesy Friday Review of The Hindu Thiruvanathapuram, o9 cotober 2009