A group of men in mask, nudge a stout man, ridiculing him with gibberish. They pull his nose, and roars of laughter in an unknown language reverberates through the hall. The scene is the rehearsal camp of the play, ‘The World Renowned Nose’ adapted from the well known short story of the same name by Vaikkom Muhammad Basheer.
The play, to be staged by Lokadharmi Theatre Group, on October 30 at Changanpuzha Park is unique in many ways. It is being staged as part of the ongoing mask workshop conducted by Terry John Converse, Professor of Theatre at Washington University. Plays using masks is a rarity in our theatre scene. And moreover the play will be staged as a prologue to the production of the world famous play, ‘The Elephant Man’ that will be staged by Lokadharmi next year.
‘The Elephant Man’ by Bernard Pomnerance is a haunting tale about the plight of a Victorian man named John Merrick with a monstrous disfigurement. From a desperate misfit, the man gets elevated to a celebrated status, thanks to the same deformity he has.
And ‘The World Renowned Nose’ is about a naive cook whole sole aim in life is to have enough food to eat and to be able to inhale snuff. But one fine morning his nose starts to grow exceptionally. Though initially people were revolted by the sight, he later became a celebrity, because of his remarkable nose.
About why they chose ‘The World Renowned Nose’, Chandradasan, the director of Lokadharmi Theatre explains, “The mask workshop by Lokadharmi has more than 20 artists. ‘The Elephant Man’ does not require that many actors, so we thought about a play that can enable all the actors to have an acting practise and that thought lead to the Basheerian story.
“We thought about a story that could connect with ‘The Elephant Man’. First we thought about the tale of Ganapathi. Then Ganapathi’s nose is a natural protrusion, not something unusual. Then the satirical story of the cook of Basheer came to our mind. There is a strong connection between the two plays. For one thing both of them deal with the psyche of the life of two outcasts, caused by their physical deformities. Both deals with how they deal with the fame, when they become celebrities in an overnight,” explains Chandradasan.
In the play, the characters wear masks and speak gibberish. Chandradasan says, “Basheer is a person who has coined several new words that has no meaning in itself. That is one reason why we chose gibberish.”
Dr Terry says he is charmed by both the beauty of the Malayalam short story as well as the talent of the artists of Lokadharmi.
About the use of mask in the play, he says, “Mask has immense possibilities. Acting with mask is much more challenging than the usual acting. Since there is no expression, the artist has to rely completely on the body language, which itself makes it all the more challenging.”
The artists of the Lokadharmi says all this is a new experience to them. “Using mask increases the relation between the artist and the space,” says Charu Narayanan and Joly Antony.
Another actor Selvaraj says, “While wearing a mask, we leave our original face behind and have another face.”