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Ode to the Parambu hills

KAUSALYA SANTHANAM

`Kurinji Paatu' was the story of desecration, loss and displacement.



THE MINSTRELS' NARRATION: `Kurinji Paatu.' Photo: R. Ragu.

Writer Inquilab goes back to Sangam poetry to find parallels to the devastation wrought by Nature in Tamil Nadu. His work acquires a fresh significance in the aftermath of the tsunami. Through the songs of Kapilar and the poem of Pari's daughters, the theme of the exploitation by man and the price he pays is brought out. The past enters the present to provide safeguards for the future.

"Kurinji Paatu" staged at the Tamil Department of Madras University was presented by Marappachi, "a cultural space to highlight the native land and literature." The story of desecration, loss and displacement is told through the eyes of the Panars, the performing tribes. It goes back to ruler Pari whose verdant Parambu hills were laid waste and whose happy people were forced to leave their beloved terrain for less hospitable lands.

Director A. Mangai has worked hard to make it an ode to the hills with the trilling of the birds and the flavour of the soil, replete with song and movements. "Kurinji Paatu" brings out the enormity of the violation of the Tinai concept, of the setting aside of a culture which had wisely based life on landscape divisions and ecology. The play provided pleasure through its vivid imagery and the joy of hearing literary, lyrical Tamil. The cast mainly comprised students of the Tamil Department of Madras University. They performed with verve though there was gaucheness here and there.

Novel

The way the actors were introduced was novel. Attention had been paid to costumes (Loretta) and props though the make up had been laid on too thick. The figure of the elephant(Lord Ganesa) conjured up through the waving of palm leaf sieves was imaginatively done. But there were portions that were too literal such as the donning of parrot heads and Pari's chariot had a synthetic feel.

The actor who played Kapilar did so quite effectively except for the cinematic pose he assumed from time to time.

The past came off well; the same could not be said of the present . The contemporary elements such as the protest against the felling of trees, the dangers of nuclear war, and the building of dams did not flow naturally in the text or depiction. There was a feel of overkill in content and length. The theme of displacement and exile has been seen before in Tamil parallel theatre; there were reminiscent touches of it here.

The small hall was wholly inadequate for the response generated and this led to quite a bit of confusion before the play began.

The play (music by Ambayiram and Prakash) showed how students could draw on their cultural roots to show the timeless relevance of great literature and demonstrated the lessons learnt in choreography and the elements of the theatre.

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