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With a donkey for a ruler

KAUSALYA SANTHANAM

A satire garnished with koothu elements, `Jambu Lingam' entertains in parts.



FREE ADAPTATION INTO TAMIL: `Jambu Lingam.' Photo: S. Thanthoni.

Humour and satire, folk elements and music intertwine to present a scathing commentary of the contemporary scene in the works of Chandrasekhar Kambar. Dealing with the themes of corruption and exploitation, beauty and truth, the playwright infused fresh life into Kannada theatre in the Sixties along with P. Lankesh and Girish Karnad.

The Magic Lantern is presenting ``Jambu Lingam," a free adaptation (by E. Kumaravel) into Tamil, of Kambar's play "Samba Siva," at Top Storey, Alliance Francaise, up to December 24.

Absurd quest

Translated by Ruben Jay and directed by Hans Kaushik, it is about a father and son who in their absurd quest to get married find their exploits linked with that of the debauched and despotic ruler of the land. Lord Ganesa grants them a boon and presents them with a frisky donkey, Ding Dong. The king's sycophantic courtiers bend over backwards to please him while the voice of sanity in the form of a conscientious minister is stifled.

As the ruler engages in a frenetic chase of the woman he has taken a fancy to, who incidentally happens to be Lingam's love, he loses all sight of reason. The donkey becomes a revered figure and is bestowed with authority and power while in a fitting finale the king is willing to turn himself into the donkey to win the lady. What better analogy than a donkey for a ruler who cannot look beyond his nose?

The play had been transported to the local milieu by the means of the Koothu idiom. The actors got into their roles with gusto. Kumaravel as the quixotic king filled with nervous energy brought the house down with his takes on film heroes. Jayakumar, the drunk in drag proved his mettle with a consistent portrayal while Dayal did his bit as the son. Priyamvada made an attractive lovesick maiden. Lawrence, Bagala, Socrates, Harris and Kumar helped drive the play along.

But stealing the thunder with her hooves and head was Krishna Devanandan as the donkey Ding Dong. The music design was taken care of by Pralayan.

Period costumes

Rajeswari's clear notes filled the hall while Ganesh provided the percussion beats. The period costumes were well designed by Parvin. In spite of the energy, the colour and the satire there was a feeling of déjà vu in watching the play.

The Koothu elements have been beaten to a pulp on the Tamil stage and the antics of the indifferent, autocratic ruler and the bungling by his aides elicit just a chuckle or two as one has seen it all before.

There was more than a touch of crass in the play that tottered between inanity and comic satire. The references to the wearing of the sari as a form of disguise were jarring.

But the play drew quite a deal of laughter from the viewers and the acting was rather good. Since the theatre's role includes providing entertainment, "Jambu Lingam" did so - in parts.

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