A bold attempt
"Naan Enna Seiyattum?" ... serious issue but no answer.
THE MAHALAKSHMI Ladies Drama group presented ``Naan Enna Seiyattum?" at the Narada Gana Sabha on Saturday last. Even the male roles are enacted by women in the troupe's productions. For a change there were no men among the dramatis personae this time and so credibility was not stretched.
Writer-director Bombay Gnanam had taken up a bold theme in ``Naan Enna Seiyattum?" and did justice to it in part. The fact that she dared go into uncharted territory in the mainstream Tamil theatre was appreciable.
The play would have been a more cohesive one if the writer had concentrated on the theme of same sex relationship focussed on in the first half. Or if she had dwelt only on the issue of euthanasia (introduced in the second half). When she veered away from one subject to the other, unity was lost.
A whole lot of questions were asked on the latter issue. But the loose ending gave the feel that the author found the theme too hot to handle and decided to place the ball in the audience's court. When the heroine who is left all alone to care for the comatose patient, helplessly asks the audience, ``Naan Enna Seiyattum?" she seems to echo the author's dilemma.
As usual, Gnanam displayed her talent in weaving an absorbing script. But as usual, the script was too wordy. One's jaws ached to see the actors speak continuously. Why were there no moments of silence so important in a play that deals with such serious issues? The clash in the culture and values of East and West is often highlighted by Gnanam in her plays. It is relevant at a time when many young people from Tamil homes seek greener pastures in the U.S.
In "Naan Enna Seiyyattum?", the middle aged widow Meenakshi (Jayanthi Gowrishankar) is reluctant to let her elder daughter Gowri (Suchitra Ravi) go to the U.S. to study further as she wants her to marry and settle down in India. The rebellious girl is stubborn and the results are disastrous for the family. Her mother is heartbroken about the choices the daughter makes. The burden of caring for the shattered Meenakshi with the help of the loyal maid Nagamma (Gnanam) falls on the younger daughter Raji (Lalitha Viswanathan).
The termagant maid is advisor, confidant, and comforter to the women. (Gnanam gets into the spirit of the role and maintains the Madras lingo consistently though she tends to overact now and then.) Meenakshi's friends come to visit her and decide to help out Raji. But when the maid leaves soon after, the play loses its pivot and the plot its soul.
In contrast to her earlier plays where Gnanam had the support of a fairly good cast, here she is almost on her own. Except for a few artistes such as those who played the mother and her two daughters, the actors generally were caricatures in a greater or lesser degree. The gesticulations and the delivery of lines were amateurish. With her marionette like movements, the cook was a travesty. The nieces who come calling and the friend from abroad were loud stereotypes. The writer takes time to come to the point in the first half and the tempo flags in the second. More editing is needed.
The sets, of a living room with a portion that shows the comatose woman, were neat.
But even with the drawbacks, ``Naan Enna Seiyattum?" makes for rather interesting viewing compared to quite a few plays on the sabha scene. Gnanam is one of the rare playwrights on the circuit who has the courage to attempt something different, even venturing into generally taboo areas. Also, unlike many others, she takes trouble to present a fully formed script. The play was also presented as part of the drama festival conducted recently by the Mahalakshmi Ladies Drama Group to celebrate its 15th anniversary.
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