Thursday, August 12, 2010

Close Encounter With an Adaptation

                                     METRO PLUS THEATRE FEST PRESENTS Ms MEENA
Ladies and gentlemen please switch off your cell phones as Ms Meena an iconic star returns to her native village Peechampura after twenty years and would not like to be interrupted as she addresses the home gathering.Thank You.

The lights are dimmed and all we see in the spotlight is a man who looks like a statue erected on a spherical base. The statue remains on the stage motionless as statues should be , till the lights are dimmed again and then the play starts with what looks like a song and dance rehearsal by village folks.

 We see a gathering of village folks rehearsing a welcome song for Ms Meena and among them the ex-lover of Ms Meena now the owner of the one and only Gomti stores which stocks everything from televisions to  furniture and even costly perfumes.

                                       Anish Victor- sitting in the centre striking a pose plays Ravi  

As the play progresses and so does the story it is now known to the audience that Meena the famous cine star was a beautiful village belle earlier known as Asha  in love with Ravi a young boy of the same village.Together they had a lovely filmy romance by the side of the waterfall amidst the natural sounds of cuckoo and other birds during daytime with Ravi singing,''You are my hammer" and she cooing back,"And you are my spanner" with all the gyrations they could manage to mimic from all the films they have seen.
But during night amidst the sound of cicadas beneath the lovely moon and beside the waterfall they dreamt of having a beautiful life together.Ravi would tease her splashing the water on her and chase the coquette Asha with all his promises.
All this should see them living happily as husband and wife and enjoying a warm and satisfying conjugal life.But it was not to be. But unlike the tragic separations in the usual love stories this one meets with a rather sinister end.

Scene keeps shifting between then and now.To what had happened twenty years earlier and the present day where we see Ravi sporting a paunch of a typical middle-aged happily fed man and Meena more mature now but way too glamorous for the village folks who now hailed her as "The nightingale of Peechampura! The Venus of Love!...."
We see the past in the form of a movie now made by Ms Meena using all the village folks as the actors portraying her past life when she was Asha . Indeed a unique way to have the filmy flash-back!.

Way back when they were young  and so much in love.When the village folks were against their marriage as it would be an intercaste marriage, they decide to elope to Madras, the city.
Naive Asha was tricked by Ravi into taking the bus alone. He promised her that he shall join her soon so she should proceed and that his cousin Gopi would be waiting to settle her in the city.Desolate and lonely in the bus Asha meets another lady who was working in the films acting for supporting roles .Together they develop the kind of camaraderie in the bus which sees Asha taking shelter in her new friend's home as Ravi's cousin Gopi  was no where in sight even when they both waited quite long at the city bus stop. The kind stranger friend who had acted as sister to many famous stars later takes Asha to the studio one day to get a job for Asha in the films as the broker she knew recruited extras.That eventful day lady luck smiled on Asha as the director who was in search of a new face spotted Asha and found her to be perfect for the role.A new star had risen in the film horizon known now as Ms Meena .
                                                  Miss Meena/Asha played by Karuna Amarnath

It is not known to us now that Asha was at that moment pregnant with Ravi's child when she had eloped. Asha comes back to the village looking for Ravi hoping that she would be re-united and that together they could go back to the city and get married.
In a chance meeting at the village Vinayak Temple Asha intercepted Ravi and pleaded to be accepted only to get a cruel denial. She begged that her plight was pitiful because no one in the village would like to marry her as everybody knew of their supposed indecent association.Between tears of anger and frustration she informed him how she had also lost his child while she battled separation alone in the city.
All her anguish and pain were dismissed by Ravi who not only proved to be a gold digger engaged to be married to Gomti, the daughter of the wealthy store owner, but also accused Asha of being a philanderer in the city and trying to dump some irresposnsible conception on him.
Jilted in love and alone in her suffering Asha falls at the feet of the deity in the temple seeking justice.

Twenty years later she returns to the village which now is in the throes of abject poverty and disrepair and promises to be the savior of the folks who are knee deep in debt and unemployment.But she has not returned as the true daughter of the soil.It is evident from her demeanour which is typical of one who has money and fame to feel powerful enough to rule arrogantly. The kind which bends to being dictatorial and savage.

The sinister plan that she has hatched for her vendetta, makes sure that Ravi pays for having wronged her twenty years back, with his life.The folks killed Ravi in lieu of all the money and job given to them by Ms Meena who is now directing a film in the village based on her own story starting with her young youthful days and her love life and how she was duped into eloping and later how she makes her standing in the cine word .

After his death Ms Meena installs a statue of Ravi with a sad expression of remorse at the entrance of the village square for all to see.For all those who came on a visit to Peechampura and all those who stayed in Peechampura the statue of Ravi is a grim reminder of a love story gone wrong and how justice was meted out.
The fury of a woman spurned and jilted in love has no bounds. If she could she would go on a rampage.Like what Ms Meena did. The gruesome vendetta on Ravi was just the concluding part. Angry with the village folks who did not support her when Ravi jilted her, she made sure that the village too dies a slow death later to be resurrected at her own fancy through her evil planning.
As and when she grew in fame and fortune she robbed the village of all its means of livelihood. Got the factory shut down and bought off all the tilling lands leaving nothing for sustenance for the village folks who did not allow her to get married and later did not come to her rescue when Ravi spurned her.The knell was struck when Ravi was pronounced a death sentence to be killed by the folks if they wanted to survive and bounce back to living their lives the way it was before with jobs and money needed for survival.
Sad ending.

Once again the statue resurfaces on the stage not in dim lights but with spot lights focussing not only on the statue but also on Ms Meena who is seen strolling the countryside next to the waterfalls and finally approaching the statue delivering her last dialogue amidst some humming of her yesteryears songs that she had sung when she pranched with Ravi.This time she holds an umbrella over herself and strolls casually off stage quite pleased with the way things turned out...just the way she had desired and planned.
The spotlight now remains on the statue as the village folks get busy with their chores when slowly the light is diimed entirely to announce the end of the play.

Applause...from all corners...everybody gets up from their seats...and i too did the same...still appauding when the actors come on stage and take their final bow.Then immediate attention to their respective cell phones by the general public as they started shifting towards the exit while i waited for the actors to go off stage.
i started towards the parking lot mulling over the play which kept me engrossed and because i am a late starter i cannot tell what impressed me more.
Whether it was an excellent adaptation of the classic play 'The Visit' (1956) by Swiss-German playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt of whom i had not known ( not until now) by the director Mr Rajiv Krishnan who turned the story written by Rashmi Ruth Devadasan into an entertaining and engrossing play which had echoes of a film in progress.
-or was it the message he was giving through his play,'' The lure of cinema and it's untold prosperity and fame exert a fatal attraction on the entire village, and lead it gradually into moral and ethical compromise." When i thought that the play not only depicted a saga of revenge of a woman betrayed in love but also the distinction between reel and real life.
-or was i taken up by the histrionic talents of the feature cast of five actors who donned multiple roles.And whether i was so thrilled because the performance was by Namma Chennai's own Perch Theatre?
-or the creative yet innovative use of props?
-or the smattering of other languages such as Tamil, Kannada and Hindi between all the dialogues which were mostly in English...which gave the play a natural and homely feel?
- and last but not the least was it the combination of laughter and pathos which seduced me enough to be watching the dark comedy without getting least bit distracted with guilt? ( of actually enjoying the sinister tale of revenge)
Hard for me to tell.But surely it should be a combination of all these that i felt that my second day at the festival was total paisa vasool ( justified spending).
Also i can say is that this run in the mill story which was a saga of revenge kept me engaged as i thought about that Machiavellian move of Ms Meena so far as the story is concerned.Then about how the actors performed comfortably and entertained us with their acting and singing in various languages which i read later that  these were live but evolved improvisations by the actors themselves. Finally my amazement at the clever but creative display of both talent and props especially at those three scenes-first the scene where an ordinary transparent plastic packing wrap was used to give the effect of a falling from a height of that of a waterfall which later becomes a gurgling stream-then of the bus and finally the reconstruction of the temple with the simplest of props. i was pleasantly surprised and amazed to an extent that i feel like saluting the creativity of the human mind which reconstructs with almost anything even if it is a broom, a winnowing straw plate, an ordinary straw basket , a plastic packing wrap and last but not the least an ordinary piece of cloth to look like Ganesh ji's trunk.
 The creative use of props-two brooms have become the handrail of the bus and the winnowing frame the steering wheel.                                                                                                      
The brooms and basket have become the temple while a dark towel twisted in the form of an elephant trunk to resemble Vinayak.
Now after knowing what a non-verbal presentation is  and how an adaptation turns out to make a dark comedy colourful i can feel the enriching experience of savouring what had hiterto been unknown to me . Now i shall tell with confidence to all who are blissful in their ignorance,"Try it cause until you try how will you know what you are missing.''
My only concern at the moment being that i should not sound like a pompous, fake braggart.Chances are that i might...
Anyways let's have a look at all the reviews in one of the paper which is synonymous with Chennai as synonymous as the filter kapi...yeah THE HINDU

Image Courtesy: The Internet...where inside the theatre is strictly prohibited.


  1. i wish i was there to see these plays with ya. i think meena did what generally people power fame drives people crazy.

  2. @Gauri yeah i guess money and fame does drive people crazy as you said and thank you for reading through.Happy that you now know the story :)which in any case i would've narrated to you in person.

  3. u have nicely pennd down whole play.its really interesting.if i get chance ,i will definitely my view meena went ahead in taking revenge too far.

  4. @Anonymous thank you for reading.Yes i agree when you say that Meena went too far but i wonder if she ever found peace after that.
    i suppose she must've lived a broken hearted sad woman filled with remorse herself.Had she forgiven Ravi she would've been peaceful and lived best but then that's what should be done.
    Reel life and real life differs isn't it?

  5. simply an awesome play.. had such an awesome time.. still brings a smile on my face.. :)