THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: ‘Mathilerikanni’ was alone in her crusade for self-esteem, loyalty and above all, for the love of her life. When battles of that kind are fought in earnestness, they are etched in the sands of time. The brave woman, who defied the norms of her times to fight her own battle, has become a name. And so has the play that recounts her tale in these times of repeated attacks on womanhood. ‘Mathilerikanni’, the drama that won seven of the State government’s theatre awards, including that for the best drama, was rightly rewarded for scripting a new phase in professional drama scene.
For Meenambalam Santhosh, who received the best director award for the play, the recognition reinforces his passion and commitment to theatre. An employee in the State Health Department, Santhosh has been directing plays since 2003. The theatre enthusiast had no doubts while venturing to shape a drama that would cost “almost ten times” a conventional professional play. “The script by Rajan Kizhakkanela had the scope for improvisation in stage settings and narration. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to break free of the out-dated framework of professional theatre,” he says.
Sujathan, the veteran stage artist, who was entrusted to do the elaborate stage setting of the historical play, devised it in such a way that it needed none of the paraphernalia of a usual play to be staged. “There are no curtains, no banner and the scenes changed without the long black outs in between. And there were mikes placed at different parts of the stage so that the actors had more freedom of movement, unlike the usual system where there is only one microphone on the stage. This gave the audience a whole new theatre experience that was more realistic.”
The play, which delineates the ‘Vadakkanpattu’ -based story of a woman who fights a battle in the guise of a man along with her husband, is also relevant in modern times, says Santhosh. “These days, when women face harassments in public places and in families, the play is a reminder of the innate strength of a woman and her capacity for selfless sacrifice,” he says.
Santhosh won the State award for best play and best director with his debut venture ‘Napoleon’ in 2003. His next play ‘Kathivanur Veeran’ based on the ‘theyyam’ ritual of North Kerala, won the award for best play while his 2006 directorial venture ‘Kottayathu Thampuran’ which had Kathakali as its subject, won awards for best play and direction.
Asked on his focus on historical subjects, Santhosh says, “it gives you a wide canvas where you can analyse universally relevant topics from a historical perspective. Human values and sentiments are the same in all ages. Artists need not limit themselves to modern day family sagas to be relevant.”
The play has also fetched K Jayakumar, Chief Secretary, the award for best lyricist and Santhosh minces no words to express his happiness about it.
“He had written me the songs without any recommendation from anyone. While directing the play, I approached him again when I felt a four-line verse would make a particular scene more complete. He obliged. Towards the end, I felt that a few more lines were indispensable for the climax scene. He asked me to come over to a hospital in the city. And to my embarrassment, I found him waiting on his son who had undergone a surgery. But he was kind enough to write me those last six lines. There is so much honest effort behind this play and that is what makes it a success,” says Santhosh.